Originally published in Spanish
Originally appeared online in the teen series Trending - February 28, 2023
It was time to begin applying to high schools. During the last year of middle school, every student in the New York City public school system has to go through this process.
I had excellent grades, and I chose to apply to some competitive high schools, but my guidance counselor decided not to submit my application to any of those schools. In fact, he took it upon himself to submit an application to a local vocational high school. I didn’t find this out until I learned that several students with much lower test scores than mine had been accepted into some of the schools I had wanted to attend. By then the deadline had passed for me to apply to any of my top schools.
When I asked the guidance counselor why he had done this, he said that little girls should never go far from where they belong. I was very petite, a person of color, and a first-generation immigrant. Our family had left El Salvador for the United States when I was three or four. I thought the man’s comment was misogynistic and racist. It seemed that everyone expected so little of people who looked like me.
What I was learning about God in the Christian Science Sunday School helped me through so many challenges like this in my middle and high school years. I had been going to a Christian Science Sunday School since the age of seven, when a neighbor invited our family to a Church of Christ, Scientist. Our family had visited many churches since coming to the US, but I didn’t feel as though I was taken seriously at any of them. For instance, at one church, prayer books were passed out, but none was given to me. At another, I asked for a hymn book and was told it was only for adults. In each case, I felt overlooked and disrespected as a good reader and thinker.
But the Christian Science Sunday School was interactive. I got to read from the Bible and from a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy that explained what God was, and I got to learn big words like incorporeal. But I was mostly struck by the beautiful synonyms Science and Health gives for God: divine Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love (see p. 465). God was becoming more tangible to me. I think that’s what I loved. It became clear that God loves me. I was not insignificant; I was precious. Because God loved me, I could count on His protection, strength, power, and gentleness. I learned I could pray and listen to God whenever I felt insecure or frightened. I could pray anywhere and at any time. This prayer would bless my family and give us a life worth living. I knew this with certainty.
It seemed that everyone expected so little of people who looked like me.
So as I questioned God about my circumstances and the bad position I thought the guidance counselor had put me in, I began reflecting on the meaning of God in my life. I asked myself, “If God is all-powerful, how could someone have the power to harm me? And if we are all created spiritually, in God’s image and likeness, how could someone not see me as spiritual, as God sees me, instead of through the lens of physical and social stereotypes?”
I turned to the Bible and saw this verse in Acts: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (10:34). I understood this to mean that color, culture, gender, social status, are not held against me because God, the only creator, recognizes all of us as His beautiful children, as being individual and equally valuable. I loved knowing that God does not discriminate among His children, and that what matters in life is not our appearance or socioeconomic status but that we love, and are obedient to, the one God.
I also loved the following Bible passage: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psalms 8:4–6). This made me appreciate that we each have such potential for good. It made me feel simultaneously beloved and empowered.
On the first day of vocational high school, everything was scary, and it seemed so much worse because I felt that I didn’t belong there. We talked about this in my Sunday School class a few days later. I realized that since God is with me, guarding and guiding me always, my attendance at my local vocational high school could only be an opportunity for blessings.
I ended up majoring in computer technology. Nothing else at the school interested me. But I found the right people, the right teachers, the right advisors. I felt loved, I felt cared for, and I felt I was receiving the attention I deserved. That prayer from Sunday School proved true—this school was not just a place I settled into and accepted; it was a blessing in every way. I did not think this was a coincidence, and I associated it with my daily prayer to God.
In my senior year of high school, I was accepted at a private engineering college. We had a new high school principal that year, and when my peers told him I had been accepted to the college, he said, “Well, these colleges have admission quotas, so they have to accept a certain number of women and minorities.” Clearly, the man hadn’t looked at my scores! More importantly, he was missing out on that wonderful verse in Psalm 8. We all stand to benefit from seeing everyone around us as “a little lower than the angels.” I was not discouraged.
My educational and professional career continued to be characterized by prayer and trust in God every step of the way, enabling me to obtain scholarships for undergraduate engineering school and to complete graduate studies at an Ivy League college without any debt. I found jobs in research and telephony and in technology for the financial industry, and then became a mathematics professor. Each transition was guided by my Father-Mother God, which I find is critical to a life worth living.
My early experiences taught me that we are not promised an easy path in life. But we are promised that regardless of the difficulties we face, we are always in God’s presence, and with divine Love’s help we can overcome any adversity.