My Journey From Farmworker Boy To Pediatrician

Book Excerpt from the Inspiring Story of Ramon Resa, MD:
Excerpt #9 of 17


When the counselors from Redwood High School in Visalia arrive to advise us on what courses to take, I know I want to go to college, and I’m going to ask about college prep courses. I learn that Mr. Baer, my older brothers’ counselor, will be mine too.

My brother Al, who’s now a senior, warns me, “If you want to go to college, don’t listen to him. He’ll place you in wood shop.”

“I’m going to tell him I want to go to college.”

“He’ll say you should forget college and do what we did.”

“Why won’t he let me take college prep?”

“He thinks Mexicans should be carpenters or workers. He doesn’t think they belong in college.”

I tell Al, “I won’t let him do that to me.”

I will not allow myself to be bullied into becoming a carpenter.

Elaine and I are ushered into Mr. Baer’s presence. He’s a big Anglo man, over 6’4” and maybe 250 pounds. He has our transcripts in front of him. “So, you two are the top students,” he says. “Is that right?”

“Yes,” we both answer.

He starts with Elaine. “So, Elaine, what are you interested in studying?”


“Aren’t you interested in college?”

“No,” she says nonchalantly.

“Well, with your grades, you should be.” He tries to convince her to think about college and Elaine reluctantly says she’ll think about it.

Then he turns to me. “Raymond, I know your brothers, and they’re doing really well in wood shop. We’ll sign you up for the same classes they had.” He keeps looking down at our files the whole time he talks to me.

“I’m interested in going to college and I want to take college prep courses.”

He looks up. “I don’t think college would be a good idea for you. It’ll be really hard and you won’t like it. Why don’t you just take wood shop? It was good enough for your brothers.”

I wonder why he was so insistent that Elaine should go to college, but when I tell him I want to, he tells me the complete opposite. For once, I don’t back down. Thanks to Al’s warnings, I know about the kind of “counseling” he gives students, especially Mexicans. If it hadn’t been for Al, I probably would never have had the courage to confront this Anglo man twice my size.

Finally he says, “I’ll put you in the college prep courses on trial, but if you have any trouble I’ll take you out of them immediately.”

I don’t say anything. I’ve won this battle.

But now I begin to wonder whether what Mr. Sims told me about the valedictorian’s speech was true, or whether there was some other reason. I’ve been aware of favoritism toward the Anglo students for a long time. I knew that as a Mexican I was facing an uphill struggle, but I had never believed that it had anything to do with race. Today, my meeting with Mr. Baer, I’ve learned very clearly that racism exists. I’ve just experienced it again.

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