My story begins when I was only 3 years old. My mom moved my sister and me away from an unsupportive family in Massachusetts to live in Austin. We had no contacts, no money, and no place to live. My mom was so strong! After moving between shelters and housing projects, she built a house for us in East Austin with the help of Habitat for Humanity. Our home was christened with songs, cheers and love by future neighbors and new friends.
I first moved to Austin from Mexico with my parents and my younger sister when I was in first grade. The four of us and eventually my brother too, shared one room of my aunt’s house for three years, until we could finally afford our own place nearby. Up until that point, I’d always been a really lively, outgoing child, but the adjustment to school in Austin was much more difficult than I expected. I had always been a good student, eager to learn, but my English was choppy at first and because of the differences in school systems, I repeated a grade.
Ten years ago, I didn’t even believe I’d make it to college, much less be up here receiving this award. It was really rough growing up, just trying to make ends meet. I am the youngest of four sisters, so I relied a lot on my sisters. Both of my parents were unstable and my sisters basically raised me, even though they were teenagers themselves and single parents.
My family lived pay check to pay check and I observed my mother’s struggle. We never had the opportunity to enjoy the luxuries in life but she made sure always had food on the table. I also saw that not everyone’s life was like that. There were others – in my school and in the world around me – that didn’t have to struggle day to day. I made up my mind at the age of 11 that I would do whatever it takes to make a better life for me and for my mom.