Repaying my loans

by Miguel Paredes 

“Acuérdate de siempre dar gracias” Remember to always give thanks. These are the words I grew up hearing from my mother reminding me that every step I take is only made possible by the countless people supporting me upright. In times of anger and sadness, I often forget to give thanks.  Thus, I want to take a moment to do so now.

Thank you to the beautiful POC community on this campus. Thank you for sharing with me your tears and  your infectious laughter and hope. Thank you for taking my hand as I sang alongside you all and for telling me that my voice, as off-key as it may be, is worth being heard — loud and proud.

Thank you for supporting me as my walls crumbled. Thank you for teaching me how to rebuild them, brick by brick, with a door that’s always open to you all. Thank you for raising your fists when mine were trembling in fear.

Thank you to the faculty of color on campus. You taught us the history behind our scars and how our stitching is not a point of weakness but a symbol of our strength. Thank you for the countless hours you’ve spent mentoring us, pushing us to grow not only as academics but also as people worthy of repainting the white pages of our histories with vibrant colors. Thank you for showing us that we are loved.

My gratitude is not free nor easily given; it is earned. However, many claim to deserve it. Last week at Battell Chapel, President Salovey demanded that I give thanks to the Yale Corporation and to the donors who fund my financial aid package. A financial aid package that Yale falsely advertises as “loan-free.”

While I am thankful for the opportunity that my parents never even dreamed of, my financial aid has certainly not been without great cost. It is filled with loans. Loans that I have had to repay in full. With interest. With sweat, tears, and sleepless nights.

I’ve paid with every dollar towards my student contribution and not to my family, every word I uttered in an attempt to carve my narrative into these white walls, every tear I shed and every tear I have wiped away from my friends’ face, every essay poorly written or pset unfinished because of the time I have spent consoling, crying, organizing. With every educational opportunity I have missed, I have repaid my loans in full.

Yale, I have given you my gratitude in the palms of my tired hands and you have turned it cold – cold like the money you say is worth more than my words.

My grandfather’s hands were calloused from cultivating the fields of Zarzal, Colombia.  My father’s hands are calloused from the weight of carrying my mother and me across an ocean and rebuilding our life anew in this country.  My hands will soon be calloused from the labor of trying to make this university listen to not only the screams but the hopeful songs of my friends and my family.

So thank you Yale for giving me a community that has stitched my heart every single time you have broke it. For giving me a glimpse of the world I constantly dream of; one that that is beautiful and full of color.  

photo by Alex Zhang