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Succeeding Academically to Shatter Societal Expectations

Oct. 20, 2020

The Dell Medical School Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is committed to improving the representation and success of students who are underrepresented in health care careers. For the third year, ODEI offered the Chemistry for Pre-Health Professions program, a six-week interactive online course designed to prepare incoming University of Texas at Austin students for their first-year general chemistry class.

This post is by Kevin Vargas, a UT Austin psychology major from Sweeny, Texas, who participated in the program.

Society has pre-established ideas of things that “should be.” For instance, as a first-generation college student, my grades and academic success are expected to be suffering, along with my mental health and well-being. Yet, here I am, a member of the honors program at The University of Texas at Austin.

After learning from the hardships of my parents, I know that my greatest opportunity is one I have had the “unfortunate” pleasure of experiencing throughout the course of my entire life. I am the son of immigrants, anomalies, outliers; I am undoubtedly who I am today because I was raised by two people who instilled in me the courage to achieve my goal of breaking the mold of what “should be.”

Now, I will admit that in the early years of my education, I certainly was not breaking any molds for what society expects of a first-generation student. To help put things into perspective, I nearly failed out of karate in second grade — somehow. Yet, after growing up and learning of the barriers that had to be broken, the literal borders that had to be crossed by my family in order to achieve success in this country, a sense of ambition was imbued within me that has made me who I am today.

I “should be” another unfortunate statistic. Yet, my dedication to making sure I did not become one allowed me to propel myself to the top of my high school class. Although, I will admit I never had “graduate as the valedictorian during a global pandemic” on my 2020 bingo card.

However, college is an entirely different ball game. Over the summer, as the school year drew near, I would be lying if I said I did not begin feeling anxious as to how I would perform at such a large university. I was able to find success at a small high school with a graduating class of less than 200 people. I thought, surely, I would not be able to do so at a school where a single course can contain twice as many students.

As I registered to take Chemistry 301, I had practically already given up hope due to the fact that my last experience with the subject was well over a year prior. Thankfully, I was invited to participate in Dell Medical School’s summer chemistry program.

Since it was organized so well, I was able to continue working full time at a nursing home, even while we dealt with COVID-19. During this period, I did not have to dedicate much time to the self-paced course to continue being successful in it, which meant I was able to continue my efforts of containing the virus without having to make any compromises. The program provided me with an incredibly in-depth and completely comprehensive look into the world of chemistry and has helped me outpace much of the material being covered in Chemistry 301 now.

I am truly grateful for my participation in this course, as it helped me to continue shattering society’s beliefs of things that “should be.” With the opportunities Dell Med has given me, it is my hope that I am able to continue becoming not what society believes I should be, but what I know I should be: an outlier.