Daniel R. Parra
As I look to how much I have grown, as a proud Mexican American born and raised in Los Angeles County and barely graduating high school, I’m amazed every time to know how far I have made strides within my life due to the arts. I was one of those at-risk kids who somehow passed high school with a 1.8 GPA. Not knowing that I would graduate high school, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do after I received my diploma. Unable to go to a four-year university, I decided to set my eyes on the local community college in my area. My mother and father never had the opportunity to have a higher education, only knew that success would come to those that went, and encouraged me to go and reach for my stars. It wasn’t until my third year that I was informed that we required a degree plan to map out the required classes to graduate and not simply be a fulltime student for four years to receive a bachelor’s degree. Upon learning this, I noticed that I was doing extremely well within arts. I found myself completing a few more classes to be able to be accepted to a university, which became in the end California State University Channel Island.
This university became a huge blessing, being smaller class sizes, and truly opened my eyes to what I was capable within the arts. Not only growing within my education but also as a man while I worked three jobs I was able to receive my BA in art/art history. Unfortunately, it being 2009, the beginning of the Great Recession, I figured this would be the best time to fill that void that I wanted so much of serving my country.
During my time in the military, I was able to live all over the country and was able to visit museums that I was only able to read in my textbooks, pushing that desire to further my education to become a part of the arts once again after service. After being injured and medically retired, I decided to continue with my education and began working on my master’s degree in art history, specializing in modern and contemporary art. This growth has not been easy, but as I look at a GPA of a 3.8, I am proud to know who I have become as a man. I am currently two classes away from completing my master’s degree and now not only look to being a professor at a university but also going for a PhD. This degree will allow me to not only be a professor of the arts but also to help lead future students to reach for the stars as well, as a dean for the art department. Coming from simple beginnings but encourage by family, friends, and mentors has lead me to dream big. Within these dreams, my life has been modeled as a better man that what I was before, all because of the arts. I can only hope that I will excel at continuing this opportunity within the arts to future minds and generations within our great nation.