Ana is a senior at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex who ran the full LA Marathon for #TeamYPI! She shares a bit about herself, growing up in El Salvador, life in Los Angeles as a high school student, and pursuing higher education after graduation. This is her inspiring story.
My name is Ana and I am a senior at the Miguel Contreras School of Social Justice. I am from El Salvador but left to come to the United States when I was 16 years old. My mother and brother are still living in El Salvador and I am staying with my Aunt here in LA. I never speak to my father. He left when I was two years old.
School in El Salvador was really bad. There was a lot of racism and homophobia aimed at the LGBTQ community. My brother is a bisexual and people at the school discriminated against him. I hated it. At seven years old, he was “different” and they started to pick on him then. To make matters worse, I would defend my brother and try and protect him. Then they would bully him even more because I was a girl and my brother was a boy. My brother would get so mad at me.
Sometimes being here I feel helpless because I can’t help him. MCLC is different. It’s social justice and they protect the LGBTQ community. Here it’s a different way to see the world. It’s one of the reasons I really like this school. Another reason is that I can stay here after school for a long time. On some days I leave here at 7 or 8 p. m. For three years that was because I was getting tutoring and doing sports. I played softball and soccer. For softball, I received a trophy and was given the game ball twice. When I run and I do sports all my problems seem to go away. That’s one of the reasons it was easy for me to sign up and run the LA marathon.
In El Salvador, my mother didn’t let me do sports. She felt it was too dangerous to be coming home from school late. People in the streets would be drinking and doing drugs. My mom was very afraid of my being on the street alone and late at night.
One of the challenging things about being in school here is the ability to consistently maintain good grades. And learning English has been very difficult for me. I have to work really hard for my language skills. Last year, I had a 3.5 GPA, but this year has been very difficult. That being said, I’m still doing good and receiving help from YPI has been a big part of that.
Myself and a lot of other students go to the YPI office and talk with the staff. They are not only workers. They are like friends and they give advice. I feel like they really care about me and the other students. They check my homework. Sometimes they’re here with me and the other students until 7 p.m. I’ve been working with Ms. Edlyn and Ms. Megan for almost two years. I’ve received tutoring in both Math and English, and my math grade definitely improved. I think the YPI counselors are better at explaining things to the students than the teachers because the teachers have to instruct the whole class. With YPI, it’s just you and them. I was also a part of their GEAR UP program.
YPI also takes students on field trips. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to any of them because I have three jobs. I do housekeeping and babysitting on the weekends and I work at a liquor store two days a week from 6 -11 p.m.
YPI also helped me with my college application process. Applying for colleges was really hard and sometimes I don’t feel ready to go to college because of my English. But I applied to Cal State LA, Dominguez Hills, Sacramento ad Long Beach. I was accepted to three out of four!
It’s difficult because no one in my family here finished school. They say I have to work because we have to buy food and pay rent and all of this other stuff. There’s also a belief in my family that we don’t need to get an education. They see us as always being stuck as housekeepers or working in restaurants.
One of my biggest accomplishments is being able to help my family back home in El Salvador. My Mom had a home, but it was a very poor home. I sent money back and she now has a nicer home. She also has a small family business and I helped her to pay for a car. That helped her business a lot.
For the future I want to study criminal justice and be a detective. It’s my job of choice because of how much injustice I have seen—especially in relationship to my brother when we were growing up. I want people to understand that it’s not only you that is important. It’s others. Your actions affect others. You don’t need to be selfish. We can work together to make a better world. I want people to have bigger and giving hearts—not just “I take this” and “I take that.”