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Focus and Determination

by Rosa Hernandez

I am from El Salvador, and this is my story about being in the United States of America. I was born in a small village, La Hadura, near the border of Guatemala. I have a wonderful family with my father, mother, brother and sister. My life in my village was very happy because of them.

But things started to happen when I was 13 years old. I noticed that other families had better food and more comfortable homes than I had. Also, I began to hear people talk about going to the United States for a better opportunity. I also heard that it cost about $10,000.00 to do that. I had no such money.

I only went to third grade in school. When I was nine, I got up at 4:00 in the morning to help my family by selling tamales. I was able to provide breakfast for my family, especially for my brothers, who were younger than me. My father grew corn and watermelon, and at one point a flood washed away all of his crops … and profits. I regularly saved money from my sales when no one else in my family did. I was able to help my father and my family through that time.

Then I decided to escape. I wanted a better life – for myself. I wanted to go to school. I started my journey by walking and first crossed the river to the border of Guatemala. I had to look out for the immigration people. I made it to the United States because someone helped me at the border and I went to their home in Texas.

Once in the United States, I spent a large amount of time working and then became an adult and mother. I thought of something else: There is more to life than just work. Part of my Spanish culture is to work every day as the only purpose of life. This should not be. We are ruining our kids. I was 17 when I had my son. I had to leave him with a babysitter very often so that I could go to school. I also had to work to have money. I knew that I needed to help my son be successful. I couldn’t help him if I couldn’t help myself by getting my education and earning money. I had to be available for school meetings sometimes. This meant that I must miss work … and miss earning money.

I found a way to make it work to help my son. I was determined. I joined the PTA and took part in activities that were held during after-school hours that I could attend and not miss work. My son was able to see me involved, which made him proud. I also learned new parenting skills that were different from my culture but that were very helpful for my son as well. I enjoyed that time.