“Every struggle is worth the hard work. Feeling like I can change the world for my family gives me the motivation to go to college and get all the degrees I can”
Like most high school seniors at this time of year, Julissa is anxiously awaiting for decision letters from colleges and universities throughout California. She has applied to four universities and hopes to major in criminology to ultimately work for the FBI. What sets her apart, however, is her ability to push through every obstacle she has faced. From an abusive household and living in a shelter, to becoming an honor roll student and gaining an internship with the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor’s College Bound program, Julissa has proven over and over again that she is unstoppable.
On any given day, Julissa can be found helping out around the Club. She is a known face around the Elementary center, taking care of whatever needs to be done. Her work ethic speaks for itself, with a reputation of being dependable and engaged. In addition to gaining an internship with the College Bound department, she is a Leader in Training (LIT), excels as a student, a member of College Bound, coaches basketball, and is a starting Center for POLA’s varsity basketball team (who just made the playoffs!). She has been a Club member for over 6 years, and enjoys watermelon and her mom’s cooking. But life hasn’t always been easy for her or her family.
“I will get out of this” became her mantra after her family was moved into a shelter for families of domestic violence. She changed schools, lost friends, and life as she knew it was completely changed, all before she even finished sixth grade. Julisa still remembers her struggles with the new chapter of her life, “I hated it. There was not a single day that I did not cry myself to sleep. I didn’t get along with the other kids that were at the shelter or my new school. I was all by myself and all I thought about was my dad and why he let us suffer and be a in a place I felt I didn’t belong.” Education took a backseat as her and her family had little money, little food, and needed to find a permanent place to live after their time at the shelter had ended. Luckily, they were able to find a new home and her mother got a job at the Club.
Throughout all the obstacles they continued to face, Julissa’s mother pushed her to continue to excel at school. Julissa has always received top marks. She recounts that school is a place “where I could forget about the nights my dad would verbally abuse my mom for visiting her parents. School was my escape and it made me happy learning about new and fascinating facts everyday”. The outlet her education offered was shaped by the strength of her mother. She credits her mom has her inspiration- watching her go back to college, work full time, and raise three kids all on her own. Her mom taught her that education can open many doors, and that every struggle is worth the hard work. The choice that she made to leave and protect her family inspired Julissa to “become stronger, both physically and mentally, and be able to one day protect and serve, study and be a successful woman.” In spite all of the obstacles she’s faced, Julissa’s is determined to find a way to never stop helping her family. She also plans to influence others to reach their full potential as well.