“I had just gone to college for my freshman year when hurricane Harvey hit in Houston. My friend was in a boat rescuing people and he couldn’t see my house. He called to ask where were my mom and sister were. My heart shattered. I was so scared. A few hours later my mom called and said she is okay. She and my sister left for her job that morning at 6 a.m. and that saved them. The people in our neighborhood were waiting on their roofs to be saved. I didn’t get to come home until fall break. We lost everything and my school bought clothes for me. The few things that survived the flood were stolen from our house little by little. They stole my father’s tools and some of the furniture he made. My mom, sister and I are still living with my aunt in one room while we work on repairing our house. It is fine as long as we are together.
My dad passed away exactly a year before the hurricane. He had heart surgery in Mexico that wasn’t successful. I went to Germany on a scholarship to study German and environmental sustainability. My dad died when I was coming back and I didn’t get to see him. I was 17.
When I was in Mexico, a lot of people from Central America immigrated there to find shelter. It made me mad, but I started listening to their stories and I understood. We had a restaurant in Mexico and people started robbing us and it got so bad that we had to move houses. Finally my dad said we have a residents card, why aren’t we using it? We moved here when I was nine and we started from zero.
We lived with my aunt down the street, all four of us in one room. My dad said we came to the United States for something better. We moved into this house and it needed a lot of help and he fixed it up all by himself and it was a beautiful home. Mom and dad painted the house yellow before he got sick. My dad was a carpenter and worked at the refinery.
After we got here, I went to a rough school and was bullied and made fun of for not speaking English. My mother got me into the KIPP school where they push college and doing well and that saved me. I could have been working at a fast food restaurant the rest of my life. Instead, I am majoring in engineering at Sewanee. I love math and science. I have an Impact Scholarship that covers tuition. My mom could not have afforded college for me and just being on that beautiful campus is a dream and I am so happy to be there even if I look different than most of the students.
My mom studied to be an architect in Mexico but gave that up to have us and then we moved here. Today she is a teacher’s aid at a school an hour away. She wants better for my sister and me.
We try to go back to Mexico and see family every summer. My sister who is much older than me was robbed and killed there in December. I have had a hard life but I am lucky that I have lived two different lives and have two perspectives. I am so thankful for the people who are helping my family and I want to give back. I will be an RA in a dorm and teaching ESL classes at school.”