October 07, 2014

As I walked to my new home … all I saw were dumpsters and needles

Freshman Rosa Trujillo grew up in a tough neighborhood. Despite being surrounded by neighborhood gangs and addicts, Rosa is breaking the cycle of poverty as she attends UCLA where she is an applied mathematics major.

As I walked down the sidewalk to my new home, the one that my parents were able to afford, all I saw was a dumpster and everywhere I turned there were needles. Little kids played with trash and dirty water because their parents would not care for them and that was the only way to have “fun.”

Throughout the days and nights, shots were fired due to gang violence. We constantly saw law enforcement agencies, including the SWAT and FBI, as this was the norm. But my greatest fear was for my family. The gang members sold illegal substances next door and once caused our house to be raided by law enforcement. Our family was hated by the gangs because we worked to change our community.

Besides its negative effects, this experience changed and impacted my life forever. I now value every single thing my parents would give me — from a computer to a simple doll — because I witnessed their hard work. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and determination, which made me want to attend college.

I have learned to set my priorities straight and help others. In serving to change my community, I discovered that I am a true leader who can make change. I see that most parents’ actions in my community cause many to become gang members or young girls to become mothers.

But I am determined to be an outlier. I am proud of my home, where I became a stronger person. I learned to stand up for myself against gang members that would holler comments, but never dared to holler threats.

For my future, I want to make my family proud when I graduate from a four-year university and have a job. I am passionate and wish to set an example for my relatives, and help my family economically. I see many kids living in poverty, I wish to be able to lend a hand as a mentor and positive role model.