At age 12, Angelica came to America from Mexico with her family in pursuit of the American Dream. Thirty years ago, she was a child picking strawberries in the fields of Florida. Her parents needed her help to make ends meet. As migrant workers, they followed the crop seasons and so Angelica was forced to switch schools often. The lack of continuity in her educational environment made learning very difficult. To make matters worse, her family lacked the education to help her at home.
In the 7th grade, Angelica’s father decided she knew enough English to translate for the family. He made her drop out of school, saying, “School is a waste of time for poor people. Doctors and lawyers never come from families like ours.” He also told her that he wasn’t going to educate his daughters so that some other man could reap the benefits. By age 15, she ran away from home and became the young mother of two.
“When I graduated from USF, my entire family attended the commencement ceremony. After my graduation ceremony, my father told me for the first time in my life that he was proud of me. And as he said it, tears fell from his eyes.
Years of struggling and raising children as a single mom took its toll. In her twenties, she decided it was time to give education another try. Angelica was fortunate to find a family literacy program that welcomed her with open arms and welcomed her young children, too. She earned her GED.
Then—with the urging of her caring teachers—she did something she never imagined she could. Angelica enrolled in community college. From there she transferred to the University of South Florida and earned a bachelor’s degree. That literacy program gave Angelica a second chance. She became a college graduate, and as a mother was more prepared to help her own children learn and to pursue education.
Now she’s paying it forward, empowering others with the same second chance—and inspiration—she received. She became the director at the Family Literacy Academy in Tampa Bay, the same community where she worked in the fields as a child.
Angelica recalled: “I never forgot my roots and I remember just how far I have come. When I graduated from USF, my entire family attended the commencement ceremony. After my graduation ceremony, my father told me for the first time in my life that he was proud of me. And as he said it, tears fell from his eyes.”
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