March is Women’s History Month and American River will be hosting college hour lectures all month long that will focus on women’s history, such as the lecture that took place Thursday, March 5, which featured personal stories from women in the community.
Vanessa Esquivido-Meza, a former American River College student and current graduate student at UC Davis, shared her story about her journey to achieve success at the collegiate level.
Esquivido-Meza began the hour by reading from her acceptance essay into UC Davis. She explained her struggles in school and throughout her childhood.
Esquivido-Meza was considered an average student, using humor to mask her struggles with reading and writing, and was the first of her entire family to attend college, and even graduate high school.
As a member of the California Native American Nor-Rel-Muk Wintu tribe, Esquivido-Meza emphasized how important it is for minority women to believe in themselves, and not to let anyone discourage them from attempting a college experience.
She also shared her collection of Native American basket caps. The caps are considered very rare because they are hand-weaved and extremely expensive. The rows of woven design on the caps symbolize different phases in each woman’s life from infancy to old age.
Professor Traci Gourdine, who also spoke at the event, read from her collection of poetry about moving from New York to California with a baby and a few hundred dollars in her pocket, and how she managed to attend UC Davis while living on her own.
“It was moving,” said Alicia Espinosa, a history major and single mother.
Added Espinosa, “I’m the first person in my family to go to college too, and I know how hard it is to try and figure out your dreams while supporting your family. (Traci’s) a really good poet.”
Gourdine talked about her time reading to inmates in the California prison system, and how special it was to see some of those inmates pursue reading or writing once they were released.
She also noted how influential her father, Meredith “Flash” Gourdine, was to her. A former Olympic silver medalist in the long jump event during the 1952 summer games in Helsinki, Finland, Gourdine described him as very demanding.
“What always stuck with me was something my Dad used to say to me, ‘so what you’re black, so what you’re female, you’re Traci first!’” Gourdine recalled. “Of course when I told them I was moving across the country to go to school, he was surprised, but he understood eventually that if I let him tell me no, I wouldn’t be doing myself justice.”