My name is Marisela Lara and I’d like to share my story with you. Looking back on the past couple of years, I am pleasantly surprised to see how far I have come. I grew up encountering different cultural obstacles, trying to reconcile my family ties to El Salvador and my life here in the United States. I also experienced the social struggle of growing up without a father, having only my mother and my grandmother – my abuelita, for support. But in late 2011 after the death of my abuelita, the closest person to me, I faced my greatest obstacle yet. I felt devastated and my grades suffered. I completed my sophomore year but my GPA was down and I thought my dreams might slip away from me.
In the midst of my struggle, a beam of hope touched my life when a friend reached out to me and mentioned an opportunity called the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) offered by Edu-Futuro. I was interested right away but I must admit that I was hesitant to apply. I thought, “what if I’m not good enough?” My friend wouldn’t give up on me, persuaded me to apply for the 2012 summer session and I was accepted.
I still remember walking in the first day. I was warmly greeted by the program facilitator and another staff member. From that day forward the welcoming atmosphere helped me to overcome my shyness and to replace it with confidence. I was challenged through leadership activities, participated in a community service project, learned about how to go to college and had a chance to visit a university. As I completed these activities throughout the course of the summer, I felt as if I was being built and shaped into a different individual: a leader.
Undoubtedly the most important aspect of my experience that summer was the fact that someone believed in me. I was encouraged to attempt things, such as to apply to scholarships, which I had previously avoided for fear of failing. But my mentors supported me and helped me to understand that I had a deep well of potential. After weeks of diligent work, my experience with ELP came to its pinnacle when I was announced as one of the scholarship recipients at the ELP graduation ceremony. Later in the ceremony my mother, who had noticed a change in me, beamed at me and exclaimed for the first time in a while, “Estoy muy orgullosa de ti!”, “I am so proud of you!”
Into the next school year I carried with me the lessons that I learned in ELP about serving in the community to benefit others. In previous years, I was hardly active in my community so I wanted to get started right away. I immediately began tutoring through my school’s High Intensity Language Training program, where I began assisting native Spanish speakers with their math and biology homework. I saw in these students the same potential that my Edu-Futuro mentors saw in me. I also joined the Latin American Student Association, of which I am now the Vice President, in order to encourage students of Latino descent to participate in school activities, to maintain a positive image, and to develop leadership skills.
I also applied the leadership skills that I learned in ELP to develop two new school organizations to meet needs in our community. The first was the Direct Relief International Club, which promotes the importance of humanitarian awareness at both the local and global levels. The other club participants and I raised funds for various causes, such as Clean Water for Rural Villages in Fiji. The second is Steps for College Success, a club I founded on the principles that I learned in ELP about empowering minority students through a network of support. I am proud to say that I received a one-time grant for this organization to put on a full-day student-led college awareness conference at George Mason University, which was a huge success. I am confident that the leadership training that I received from Edu-Futuro is what equipped me to take the lead in starting these new organizations.
Edu-Futuro has continued to have significant implications for my future. I currently participate in the second phase of the Emerging Leaders Program, which provides individual mentoring with an emphasis on college admissions. With the help of my mentors, I am now a competitive finalist for a full tuition scholarship. I cannot put into words how significant this is for my mother and me financially. Thanks to the support and inspiration given to me via Edu-Futuro, I am now one step closer to accomplishing my professional goal of practicing medicine.
I know firsthand that I am not the only one who can be empowered by Edu-Futuro: there are more students who could benefit from its programs. Like my friend who first told me of ELP, I am constantly referring friends and other acquaintances to the same program that changed my life. I interact daily with both adults and children who could benefit from Edu-Futuro’s services. Most importantly, I know there are many out there who just need someone to believe in them, like Edu-Futuro’s staff and mentors believed in me, so that they too can have their parents beam at them with pride. As you can see, with Edu-Futuro’s assistance, I did not let my dreams slip away from me.
It is my hope, during this season of giving, that you will consider financially supporting Edu-Futuro – my second family – to ensure that other Latino children and youth have access to resources that will enable them to achieve their dream. Thank you for your generosity and commitment to our collective achievement.
From my family to yours, we wish you health and happiness this holiday season and in the years to come. Happy Holidays!
Washington-Lee High School, Class of 2014
Note from Daniel Sarmiento, Executive Director: Thank you for your help in reaching students like Marisela and empowering them to succeed. Without you and your generous efforts, we could not continue to make an impact in the community. Thank you for partnering with us to make a change.
Consider donating financially to support our programs via the following (no donation is too small):
a. You can mail a check to Edu-Futuro at
Syphax Education Center, 2nd Floor
2110 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22204
b. Make a donation through GlobalGiving.com
On December 3rd, from 12:01pm (ET) until 11:59pm, Microsoft will match funds donated to Edu-Futuro. One can go to http://goto.gg/12472 to donate (only online donations will be matched)
c. Text GIVE 12472 to 80088 to donate $10