Ganas is all you need
— Jaime Escalante

For all the negative talk about Latino immigrants, they often have more ganas – desire, drive and grit – than their non-immigrant counterparts.  Deluged with social and economic challenges, Latino immigrants’ main one is adjusting to the lifestyle in the United States.  And the change in proximity to extended family can intensify the adjustment if relatives back home were a positive source of support.  Latino immigrant students typically adjust more rapidly than the adults in their families mainly because they are typically immersed in English and surrounded by peers at school who provide help and encouragement.
Jaime Escalante, the mathematics teacher featured in the classic movie “Stand and Deliver,” taught high-risk students at Garfield High School in Los Angeles advanced placement calculus.  He emphasized the importance of ganas to his students – if a student truly wanted to learn math, Escalante could teach it.  They did, and he did; he remains an inspiration.  
Might the Latino immigrant students who excel in school inspire or teach ganas to the non-immigrant Latino students who seem disinterested, complacent or bored?   If so, there would be some distinct lessons to derive.
First, choose something that you truly want to do but select interests and work that will help other people.  Self-centeredness and an attitude that “It’s all about me” – the plight of many contemporary non-immigrant adolescents and young adults – eventually drive people away and do not support people in standing the test of time.  Many Latino immigrant students still focus on family and friends first, then cast attention on themselves.  A focal shift towards others broadens the possibilities and deepens concern for others.  
Accomplishments are not simply granted; a person must work hard, sacrifice and earn what he desires.  Everything we choose has a price, and that price must be paid. Latino immigrants and their children are often accustomed to doing without, working long hours or making do until circumstances improve.  Non-immigrant Latinos, on the other hand, may have a more comfortable life, but that often results in decreased tolerance for discomfort and forbearance in difficult situations. They could learn that tolerance and making choices count so that the price paid yields a greater return. 
Difficult does not necessarily mean bad.  If something is hard to do, the person with ganas and burning desire will persist despite a challenge, however big.  And with each challenge, he will learn the lessons and try again.  Difficulty can be good for it engenders solutions, creativity and innovation.  The key is setting expectations that will include the possibility of difficulty; expecting things to come easy is a set up for frustration, upset and quitting.  But the muscle that tolerates difficulty – a student’s resilience – gets stronger with use.
Fulfilling a burning desire, realizing a dream or reaching the finish line takes time. There are no shortcuts. Time, effort and persistence come more easily if a student has the ability to delay gratification and try again.  For most immigrant Latino students, delay of gratification is a common experience. They know that things will take time. Non-immigrant Latino students falling short of patience or persistence need to look to the inspiration and instruction of classmates who keep going despite challenges.  Someone who gets up every time he falls is a great instructor for those who are willing to watch and learn.  
The path to success doesn’t end with reaching the goal.  Gratitude is natural next step for those who succeed and help others.  And the only way to repay people who have been supportive or instrumental in one’s success is to pay it forward and do the same for someone else. •