Equality is a word filled with great intention. However, it falls short in one significant way. Equality is treating everyone the same, but when the starting points vary equality is not sufficient for addressing the challenges faced by many marginalized people in the world. Equity, however, is giving everyone adequate tools to succeed.
From a young age I was able to identify that there were grand differences in my life and the lives I witnessed on television. My parents entered America from El Salvador in the early 80's. My father was fleeing the country during the Civil War.
My family settled in a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, NY. During our time in New York my older brother and I attended public schools where there were predominantly Latin Americans, African-Americans, and very few students of European dissent. Most of us were considered low-income, had reduced lunches, and were on some sort of government assistance.
My parents decided to move to Springfield, MA in 1999 in hopes of providing us with a better life. In Massachusetts my parents worked very hard, two jobs at times, to make ends meet. My parents could only afford the necessities and occasionally a frivolous item that both my brothers and I could share. Our needs were always greater than our wants.
For high school, my parents enrolled me in a higher rated school in a different district using the address of my uncle. Each citizen is restricted to attending a publically funded school in the district that they can afford to reside.
The majority of the students from this well-funded school came from predominately affluent Caucasian families. The minorities, which were fewer than ten in total, were from my hometown and received entrance based on a lottery system – which was very limited.
Transitioning from a school where I was in the majority to a predominantly Caucasian school where it was evident that I was a minority was shocking to say the least. I felt like an outcast, like someone had dumped me into a foreign land I knew nothing of. I felt I couldn't be myself. It was a cultural shock, but wasn't I already living in America?
I immediately noticed the differences in teacher/parent involvement, lunch meals, and student engagement. There were better opportunities and the lessons were structured and more challenging. It was while attending the new high school that I became aware of the harsh reality of the inequality that exists in our educational system and country.
Had my peers in the low income school been afforded the same resources and level of care as the highly funded school I believe they would have had greater opportunity to succeed and contribute to our country. I was fortunate that I was able to get a glimpse at a better life and continued my educational path with my parents support.
I attended UMASS Amherst and majored in Sociology. I always knew I wanted to help people, empower them, fight for equity (not just equality), and pave the way for future generations. Throughout my career in Social Work I have identified a deep appreciation and passion for equality and equal opportunity for all. I've worked with several underprivileged populations and have been able to share my struggles to promote awareness and advocate on behalf of our future generations.
Opportunities that should be offered to all are simply not.
Equality is not all that is needed; equality is treating everyone the same.
Equity is giving everyone the same tools to be able to succeed.
We have to work together to find a solution.
My mission is to use my experiences to serve as an inspiration for someone who isn’t sure they can make it out of their circumstances; while also motivating people to find solutions. It starts with you. We are all children of God and deserve every opportunity to succeed and live fulfilled lives.
I am grateful for the passion of inclusion that God has given me and I look forward to all the places it takes me to improve our world.
Stephanie Argueta is a young professional who works in Human Services and studied at UMASS Amherst. She moved to the DMV to explore the opportunities the city life may bring. She hopes to to be able to make a difference in the world with her writing. Stephanie enjoys trying new foods, nature walks, and self-help books.