Paola’s UCLA dream come true

Paola’s UCLA dream come true

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for learning. I’ve always had a passion to explore and expand my mind. For all of elementary school and middle school, I’ve always been “Miss Smarty-Pants,” the nerd and the bookworm. As I entered high school, I was still that person, but my adolescent life flipped when I became a sophomore.

At the age of 15, I took on the roles of a mother, a nurse, a caretaker and a housekeeper as I watched my mom battle depression for the first time. I watched as the woman who fought to raise her two children on her own lay in her bed, curled up in a ball not wanting to do anything. As a result, my younger brother went into a depression, as well.

I spent most of my time cooking, cleaning, and walking to buy food and prepare it. I tutored my younger brother and made sure my mom ate and took her medications. By the time I was 17, I thought, ‘Forget college. Forget expanding my mind. Forget becoming a doctor and getting a degree. I need to finish high school and get a job to support my family. College is the last thing on my mind now.’

I first encountered YPI when I started at STEM Academy of Hollywood in my sophomore year. However, it wasn’t until the summer of my junior year that YPI changed my life forever. I was chosen to become a College Peer Leader and help my fellow classmates with their college application processes. In the four days of training I received, my eyes opened up again and that’s when I realized I had to get back on track to go to college.

YPI helped me with my college application and became a huge support system for me to keep pushing myself to get good grades and continue with my education. They answered any questions I had and would sit with me for hours just to help me perfect my applications, scholarships, schoolwork, or any advice I needed to get through the cloudy days.

Since my graduation, I have become a mentor to a student at STEM who is now a sophomore. I am committed to help guide her throughout the rest of her educational career. I’m currently attending my dream school, UCLA. I’m about to to finish the Freshman Summer Program there which has helped me get a headstart with classes and aided in the transition from high school to college. I will continue my education until I reach medical school and become an OB/GYN.

I want to thank YPI for all of the endless support they have given me; for having hope in me despite all my struggles and insecurities; for the wonderful opportunities they’ve given me; for their kindness and patience not just with me, but with other students as well. A million thank you’s for the workshops and for staying hours after school to help us with anything we needed. Thank you for the motivation and the bright energy to help us get through the days and the endless homework we had.

My hope is that YPI will continue to help kids get through high school in times of difficulties and triumphs. My hope is that other kids will come to this program and see that there are opportunities for them to go to college and pursue their dreams. Know that if you’re struggling, you should always look for help because there are people that care about you. Everyone—no matter what they’ve gone through or where they came from—deserves the opportunity and the support they need to go to college.”

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