By Natasha Songonuga
Associate, Financial Restructuring & Creditors’ Rights Department, Gibbons P.C.
Growing up in Jamaica, I shared a bedroom with my mother, a single mother of six. I would hear her cry at night over bills and school fees. A decent high school education in Jamaica requires tuition and the island’s only university at the time was far too expensive for her to even consider sending any of us, despite her constant sacrifices and desire to further our education.
I moved to the U.S. when my father offered the opportunity to live with him in order to complete my high school education and attend college. I had no concept of the American Dream, but I had dreamt of an education and becoming a lawyer. I decided to be a lawyer at eight-years-old, because the lawyers on television always seemed to help people, and I wanted to help people, starting with my mother.
The cost of a college education seemed insurmountable. I saved my pay from after-school jobs and earned partial scholarships. It was during that time that my American Dream started to take shape. I experienced many obstacles, rooted in race, education, and economic disparity that challenged my motivation and resolve to work hard.
In the midst of such obstacles, I began to raise a family, and I was uplifted by my children’s innocence. I have been driven to do whatever is necessary or possible to provide a solid economic and financial foundation for my children, so they can stand on my shoulders as they go into the world, rather than starting from the bottom as I did. That became my American Dream.
I am proud of my achievements—completing college and law school, getting married, and starting a family. While my American Dream is still a work in progress, it has afforded me great opportunities in life: my family is not struggling financially; my children are proud of their heritage and are excelling in school; and I am reaching out to help people behind me. While I still face many obstacles, I am fortunate to be able to envision my children at the universities of their choice and with unburdened financial beginnings to their lives.