Mejia speaks of racism, bullying and learning to overcome all obstacles

5/8/2013

Speakers shares story with GCHS students.

Speakers shares story with GCHS students.

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

Ernesto Mejia has had many struggles in his life.

It wasn't likely that the son of Mexican immigrants, who at 16 was diagnosed with Guillan-Barré syndrome, would finish high school or earn a college degree.

He overcame those obstacles and earned three college degrees. On Tuesday, Mejia shared his story with Garden City High School students.

He talked about the difficulties of being the only Mexican kid growing up in his Michigan neighborhood.

Mejia experienced racism at school and in his neighborhood, and witnessed his father being beaten by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

He moved back and forth from Mexico to the U.S., forgetting the English he had learned in school. Students made fun of that, and he was bullied in both Mexico and the U.S.

Mejia stressed that he had so many obstacles throughout life, yet he has succeeded. He uses his experience to try to make an impact on others' lives.

"But just because I made it, doesn't mean you're going to," Mejia told students Tuesday.

He stressed the importance of treating family with respect and working toward goals.

Mejia earned a full scholarship to Eastern Michigan University, but lost it when his grades fell due to partying.

In order to come back to school and finish, he worked full time, bartended part time and took 18 credit hours for two straight semesters. He then earned a master's degree in organizational leadership with a focus on higher education. He became dean of student success and worked his way up the ranks, but then chose to pursue his personal dream of motivating young people to go to college.

Mejia said that although he made mistakes that he regrets, those mistakes steered him onto the right path.

"They made me into the man I am today," he said.

Mejia was able to overcome obstacles, and now he encourages students to do the same.

"Sometimes you can achieve the impossible," he said.

Lorenzo Arteaga, 14, a GCHS freshman, said Mejia's speech was inspiring.

"He's awesome, so cool," Arteaga said.

Arteaga said he related to the speech.

"He talked a lot about how Latinos sacrifice everything for the future," said Arteaga, who plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Jose Moreno, 18, a GCHS senior, said Mejia was a great speaker and that he was impressed with how Mejia overcame racism, as well as a rare disease.

"He was really motivational and inspirational," Moreno said.

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