1800Wheelchair.com Scholarship Fund Winning Poem for Spring 2013

Topic: Please write a poem, in a style of your choice, on the theme of overcoming a personal challenge.

Ivan Copado
University of California
at Riverside


The brown man comes with a spade in hand.
He knows the time of year to plant the harvest.
He cuts the grass and weeds of the land,
His hands are haggard from the strain with no rest.
His skin a deep brown befitting for his band;
Which are all constantly kissed by the sun's solar test.

The brown man comes home to a bowl of frijoles de olla,
Has a small piece of meat with the pay that he makes.
Takes in "El Norte" of legend, holding the hand of Lola
As his eyes settle on a young babe, one of his namesakes.
In its smile he draws strength to give to his handsome "Bola".

He would stay up to catch up on events,
Maybe take in a movie or a novella
But the man knows better, so he relents.
He sneaks off to bed without his "Bella"
Because in "El Norte" the dawn is not lenient.
Here's Ivan's personal statement.

The poem tells the tale of my father, Canuto Copado, whose story has provided me the will to persevere. I was once a headstrong young man who felt that the stories of the past could not possibly affect the present day, so I went off and made mistakes, as headstrong boys do. However, after circumventing a litany of obstacles, I find myself once again in the world of academia, awaiting August and the beginning of the University of California, Riverside school year. Not only will I be the first of my family to attend a University, I'll also be provided with the opportunity to refine the skills and teaching capabilities needed to become a high school English teacher.

Like my father the greatest difficulties which appeared before me were wrought from my own stubbornness. After high school I ran off with a friend to make a life for myself; away from the rigors of my family's ideals and the responsibilities of adulthood. Burning through savings, part time jobs, and the various hurdles that life offers a headstrong boy, I quickly realized that it was from family that my father drew his strength, and thus I returned to reassess my life and its priorities. Once home, my goals were simple: return to school and make my father proud by becoming a great man.

Funny thing about life though, it turns the simplest of plans asunder with the constant appearance of obstacles. The first of these hurdles was the need for money, which was remedied by finding full time employment that stole time from my academic endeavors -- but I continued my scholarly pursuits. Inheriting my father's work ethic, I sacrificed what needed to be set aside in order to both pay for classes, and make time to do the work. Even then, another barrier was erected to stifle my advancement, one that proved to almost undo my work and brought my father—the strongest man I know—to tears.

In the winter of 2010 an Urologist informed me that a tumor had been found in my bladder. One can only imagine how the world of a 23-year old was rocked by this revelation. For a moment the desperation that circled my thoughts during my tenure away from my family resurfaced, but my father's sadness returned me to my senses. Until that time there had been nary a tear shed by the man who worked from sun-up to sundown, picking up the waste left behind by the rest of society, first as a farm worker, then a dairy farmer, and for the last 26 years as a trash truck driver. Yet when facing the prospect of burying the son he had worked so hard for, his faith came crashing down. Seeing that hopelessness in my father's eyes drove me towards literature on fending off tumors, trying out new diets to strengthen my immune system, and even prayer. Regardless of what helped one thing is clear today: the specter of cancer no longer follows me, but my father's desires to see me succeed does.

Currently I'm working towards becoming an English teacher by taking classes in English, Creative Writing, and Sociology to better enable me to share more with a class of eager and curious students. Moreover--bearing in mind the effect my father's story had on me as well as my own experiences--I have been inspired to share it with more than just my future children, by way of the bountiful literary classics available to a teacher. Nevertheless, facing the tuition of UCR and all other necessities brings yet another impediment to surpass, one I am certain that--with the assistance of others and my own commitment to bettering myself--will be traversed. My wise father once told me that "It's not for the man to ask why something is put in his way; it's what he can do to get around it that matters." For that reason, I forge ahead, regardless of the challenges.