Editor's note: The following is from a SOY Scholarship Program alumna. Minimal edits have been made to preserve the writer's voice as it originally appeared at a December fundraiser. Other essays from SOY alumni will appear in the Daily Pilot in the coming weeks.
Dear Distinguished Guest,
First of all, I would like to thank you for your presence, your time and opening up your hearts to our testimonies. My story, like many of the youth at the center, unfortunately begins with a single-parent home. Upon my parents' divorce, my teen years became very confusing to me. During the separation years, I experienced severe anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem and doubt. Although I rarely showed it, I often questioned my intelligence despite being a straight-A student in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. This shows you some of the unfortunate detrimental effects that a broken home can have on a child.
Although my parents divorced, they were exceptional parents. Coming from an immigrant family, many of our culture's and society's systems, such as our educational one, was very complicated to my parents. They didn't know the requirements that were needed for college acceptance, such as the A-G requirements, SAT tests, benefits of AP courses or SAT prep courses; but they did know one thing: They wanted me to go to college.
During the early stages of my parent's separation I made myself a vow: to not become another statistic. I refused to be the teenage girl from a divorced family who became pregnant during her adolescence. Instead, I wanted to be at the other end of the spectrum. I desired to be the young woman who, despite life's difficulties, could look back in her adulthood and say, "I made it!" There was one big problem, however: I had no idea how to accomplish this.
In all the chaos, I encountered a ray of light. The Save Our Youth center (SOY) became my second home. It was a place where I could go to and have peace, help with my homework and mentors who guided me in my soon-to-be college journey. SOY is a place where a child can go right after school and be provided with the love, support, understanding and resources that often lack in a low-income home.
Thanks to Silvia, the academic coordinator, I enrolled in my first SAT-prep course during my late sophomore year in high school, and it was the guidance of our Executive Director Trevor Murphy that enabled me to sign up and do well in AP courses such as AP calculus and AP biology.
SOY goes beyond the academic realm. SOY also provided me with a gymnasium that helped me enhance my athletic abilities. A girls' program (SOY Girls) provided me with the education I needed to prevent the much-unwanted teen pregnancy. SOY provided me with numerous field trips, which helped me expand my mentality of the world I knew. SOY not only provided me with the much-needed financial help, but it gave me an opportunity to make a difference in my future. It taught me to believe in myself and my dreams.
I am proud to say that since my graduation from SOY I have been accepted and graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine with a cognitive sciences and sociology double major. Without SOY I wouldn't be the woman I am today. I plan to pursue a master's degree in social work and ultimately a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. My dreams came true. I am the woman that looks back and with deep emotion and happy tears in her eyes says, "I made it!"
Karla I. Andrade
Graduating Class of 2004