What should have been a typical visit to the dentist turned out to be an unforgettable and unfortunate incident for Guillermo Pomarillo. The first-generation Latino-American teen, who lives in Chicago, went for a teeth cleaning before heading to Stanford University for his freshman year.
His dentist flipped out when he learned a first-generation college student with undocumented parents is getting his education at Stanford.
The dentist didn't congratulate Pomarillo for his achievement. Instead, the dentist asked him about his ACT score — as if that's any of his business.
"It was weird cause I have never had a professional ask me that," Pomarillo wrote in an open letter on Facebook. "I answered honestly. Your response after that clearly showed what you were thinking."
"You sarcastically said 'Wow you got (blank) on the ACT?! And you got into Stanford?' I was confused, I had always thought my ACT score wasn't too bad. I mean, I got admitted into many other schools other than Stanny. You then said, 'Well my daughter got a 35 and she didn't get into Stanford.'"
The dentist went on to say that kids from lower-income neighborhoods, like the one Pomarillo is from, are easily admitted into Ivy League schools.
"In my mind, I was confused. Did he really just say that? But you didn't stop," Pomarillo wrote. "You kept going. You said, 'You know, when kids go to schools around here. (aka public schools in minority neighborhoods) It's easier for them to get into schools like Stanford. My daughter goes to a school where like 20 kids get perfect ACT scores.'"
The dentist didn't stop there. He said: "You're very lucky. Consider yourself very lucky. Getting into Stanford is like competing on 'The Voice,' you know, when you get the buzzer."
"Wait what?," Pomarillo wrote. "So you're telling me that 18 years of rigorous hard work is like going on 'The Voice.' You're telling me that pure luck got me admitted into not only Stanford, but schools like Princeton, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and WASHU, and waitlisted at Tufts, Penn, and Columbia (I didn't tell him this btw)?! To say that I was admitted into a school simply because of my background is ridiculous."
Pomarillo went on to write about a little thing called affirmative action, which has helped millions of Latinos attend college.
"OF COURSE YOUR DAUGHTER WAS GOING TO SCORE HIGHER THAN ME," Pomarillo wrote. "You're a dentist that can afford to send her to a school that will help her achieve a score like that. You're an educated dentist, with a college degree and dentistry degree. My parents, two undocumented immigrants that only obtained a grammar school education, couldn't afford to send me to private schools. Yes, I may have grown up in a neighborhood that doesn't have many young kids going to schools like Stanford. But it doesn't mean that people where I come from don't have the potential to succeed at Stanford. We deserve to go to places like Stanford."
The Supreme Court agrees with Pomarillo, which is why they upheld affirmative action in a 4-3 vote in late June.
A 2013 Pew research report proves just how dedicated Latinos are to higher education, with 69% of 2012 Latino high school graduates enrolling in college that fall, while 67% of whites enrolled in college.
Even Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor is a product of affirmative action.
"I am the perfect affirmative action baby," Sotomayor said in 1994. "I am Puerto Rican, born and raised in the south Bronx. My test scores were not comparable to my colleagues at Princeton and Yale. Not so far off so that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions."
This is the exact point Pomarillo made in his letter — and is the reason he fought back against the misguided dentist.
"You belittled me," Pomarillo wrote. "You labeled me. Yes, my name gave it off. But you were completely ignorant of my struggles. Little do you know that I grew up in a house where Spanish was only spoken. I had to learn English on my own."
"I grew up in a household where at times we couldn't afford to pay our rent or didn't have enough food for the whole week. I grew up in a household where my parents were clueless of the college application process, and it was up to me to make sure I submitted all my papers for college. I grew up in a household where college seemed like a distant dream. I grew up in a household where I will not only be the first one attending college, but I will be the first one to leave my home. So yes, your daughter scored higher than me on the ACT. But, she literally scored a few points higher than me. If those few points mean that she is better than me, then you are neglecting a lot."
If this letter is any indication, this Stanford-bound student will accomplish amazing things in college and beyond.