LAWRENCE – “We never really know who someone lives with, who the adult in their life is,” said Ted Lombardi, current Assistant Principal of Humanities and Leadership Development High School (HLD). Lombardi said that adults at Lawrence High School (LHS) rarely assume that any student lives in a “typical” household of two parents and their children.
In fact, the most recent U.S. census reports only 3,979 traditional nuclear families out of 77,326 live in Lawrence. Of those 77,326, 5,460 consist of single mothers and their children, and 843 of grandparents who act as guardians to their grandchildren. 74.6 percent speak a language other than English at home and 36.1 percent are foreign born and immigrated to the city.
“Because of the city that we serve we have to be more sensitive to all the family situations that exist so whether it’s putting parent or guardian on a letter, or asking a student who they live with or who to call even if they’re in trouble for something, we don’t just immediately go and call the mother,” said Lombardi.
Given the range of diversity within both the city of Lawrence and LHS, the following piece features the stories of three particular students and their non-traditional family situations.
**Young teen mom**
Nancy Jeannette Salazar, 16, is a teen mother. She is the middle child of three and was raised by a single mother with no father figure to look up to. She gave birth to a baby girl her freshman year, and is currently a single mother and a sophomore attending LHS.
“I feel as if I needed to look for manly love in guys and crave attention because I had no fatherly love. Although I grew up angry at the world and blamed him for leaving our family, I then realized, after his death, it was only for our safety,” said Salazar. “I grew up with a lot of resentment towards not having a father to hold and cry to and to treat me like a princess, but I know he tried his best.”
As Salazar became older, she and her mother bumped heads a lot, fighting like any regular teen and parent would do. Nevertheless, “at the end of the day I know I’m beyond blessed to have her in me and my daughter’s life,” said Salazar.
Salazar’s typical day isn’t the same as the rest of her friends. She wakes up at 7 a.m., along with everyone else in the house, giving her baby a bottle and leaving her with her older sister and mother. They both take care of the baby for the rest of the day until she comes back from school.
Perhaps as a result of this, Salazar and her older sister have a very strong relationship. But her younger brother and her are not as close because they have a big age difference. “He’s too small to comprehend everything around him,” she said.
For Salazar, home responsibilities come first. “I don’t play any sports or [attend] clubs because I have responsibilities at home,” she said. “[After school], I feed [the baby] food and eat with her. Then I put her to sleep for a few hours, when she wakes up I play with her for an hour and so.”
After they finish playing with the toys, Salazar gives her baby a bath. Around 8 p.m., she puts the baby to sleep and every night, Salazar does her schoolwork to keep her grades up. When she finishes her schoolwork, she takes a shower and goes to bed.
A parent’s goal is to provide their children with a life full of opportunities they never had. At the age of three, Winifer Espinal’s parents left her to live with her grandmother in the Dominican Republic, while they moved their family to the United States. one-by-one. By the age of four, Espinal was on her first plane ride to the US about to begin a new life.
“I remember my mom was pregnant [with] Chris when I got here,” said Espinal. The Espinal family started their new life in Lawrence, Massachusetts, moving to New York soon after. As a child, Espinal’s parents both worked two jobs, giving her the responsibility of caring for her youngest brother.
“I would be the one taking care of Chris, and I would have to help him with his homework and I would learn how to do little stuff like learn how to cook,” said Espinal. At the age of 12, Espinal was cooking up macaroni and cheese and fried foods such as tostones and salami.
Because neither of her parents spoke English, Espinal often has to do much of the translating. “Whenever they would have a problem with a bill or something I would have to call, I would have to talk because they didn’t know English and with letters, I would have to translate them.”
She continued, “During this time I felt like an adult because I would like be experiencing things like an adult would usually do.” That being said, Espinal does often feel like she grew up too fast. “I had friends, a lot of friends, and I would always want to go out and then since I had that big responsibility with my little brother and having to take care of him that took away from my going out time.”
As an 18 year old, Espinal now balances school and work. It’s hard for her to be the daughter and listen to her parents when at times, she knows more than they do and is now entering adulthood. “I feel like an adult but they don’t treat me like one,” she said. “I don’t think they take all I’ve done for them into consideration.”
* * *
ANDOVER- As Andover students com from 49 different states and territories, and 39 different countries, there is no such thing a the “typical Andover student.”
To account for this diversity of experience and opinion, these profiles feature two students from Saudi Arabia and New Jersey. Though not representative of the entire student body, nevertheless their stories offer insight into the role of family at Andover.
**Family Networks Make The World Feel Smaller**
For Meghana Jayam ‘14, technology makes the 6,381 miles between her and her parents appear to shrink dramatically.
“My family lives in Saudi Arabia- my two parents and then I’m an only child. We interact through the telephone…I have an iPhone, my mother has an iPhone, my dad has an iPhone, so we have iMessage,” said Jayam.
To call home, Jayam must make sure that she is calling at a time when both of her parents are not at work and she must be mindful of the eight hour time difference. Jayam’s mother and father both work at an oil company in Saudi Arabia.
In some ways, Jayam would say that she and her parents have grown closer over the three years they have lived thousands of miles apart. On the other side of the globe, Jayam continues to value her family.
“[My family has] a big influence on on my ideals because I grew up with them for fourteen years of my life, and I’m still growing up with them. I’ve always looked up to them as my role models, exactly how I want to be when I’m older and also my extended family, they also are very big role models,” said Jayam.
When asked about her parents’ expectations for her, Jayam said, “They essentially just want to see me succeed and be happy. That’s obviously their overarching goal. But they love to see that I’m challenging myself, and keeping myself healthy while challenging myself.”
Jayam repeatedly referenced the importance of working hard in school for her family. “I don’t have to do chores for money, but all [my parents] want to see is that I’m working hard at what I’m supposed to be working hard at, which is school,” said Jayam. For Jayam, reminders of her parents’ great interest in her schoolwork serves as extra motivation to keep on task.
Working hard in school is Jayam’s chore. Her parents continue to provide her with scholastic opportunities once they are certain that she will make the most of them.“My parents will be paying for my college. Yeah, $70,000 is a lot, but they are willing to pay it if I get into a college that I really really want to go to,” said Jayam.
While technology has made communicating with her parents far easier, Jayam has difficulties reaching her parents from time to time.
“Whenever I have something and I’m unable to contact my parents due to timezones or due to phones or something is not working, I always reach out to [my extended family], and they reply immediately,” said Jayam. ““I’m very close with my extended family, especially my uncles and aunts,” she continued.
Having relatives in New York has allowed Jayam to take a summer internship in Manhattan. It has also provided her with a place to spend short breaks from school when she cannot travel the long journey home.
**Home Values Away From Home**
Despite minimal communication and little time for phone calls, Elijah Aladin ‘15 relies heavily on the lessons his family has taught him as he navigates Andover.
“Even if it’s not them giving me direct advice, it’s stuff that they’ve said in the past always ringing through my head,” said Aladin.
Aladin, a boarding student from New Jersey, is halfway through his second year at Andover and has thrived thus far as a member of The Yorkies and of the varsity football team.
While working to balance his academics, athletics and arts, Aladin has found that calling home rarely fits comfortably into his schedule.
“Usually [communicating with my family is dependent on] my availability. Usually early Sundays, I’ll call them and get in contact with everybody, and that’ll be it for the week,” he said.
Although he rarely interacts with his family members during the week, Aladin seldom feels disconnected from them.
“I’m very grounded in where I’ve come from and how I was raised, I’m even partway stubborn and a little biased about it, so [my family has] had a huge influence on me,” he said.
For Aladin, Andover incites feelings of obligation to his family. “We’ve all, myself, [my parents], my grandparents included, everybody has worked hard to get me here,” he said.
Aladin also feels that such pressures extend beyond the classroom. “Not even just for my education, all around [my parents] have high expectations for me, to carry myself how they’ve raised me to carry myself.”
If Aladin’s devotion to his family’s values was to be explained, it would be by the importance his elders place in the retention of culture and values.
“[Family culture] is pretty important, actually, especially with my grandmother. She’s the type of person that’s very open-minded, but at the same time, she likes that I’m rooted in who I am and how I was raised, because she knows that she is instilling the right values in me, and that my mom is instilling the right values in me.”
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