Children hopscotch in front of a crime scene and play tag by a memorial; our children deserve to reach their goals and have their name plastered on billboards rather than obituaries. Follow me home to Santa Rita and you will find the neighborhood with the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the county, the block central to one of the town’s largest gangs, and one of the city’s highest poverty rates. The night teems with red and blue lights; by day innumerable counts of children wander about.
Here, many children join the one afterschool program in proximity, the Salvation Army. This is where I spend my time. Summer at Day Camp, school days at Kids Cafe, and Fridays at Youth Group. At camp, I was assigned one of our most mischievous kids. Joshua (not his real name) was a troubled kid and I approached him with compassion.
He begged to leave, attempting to run away during recess. He sat sour-faced during Just Dance, pinched and bullied the other kids. My mission the next day was to not give up on him the way other counselors had done in the past. I lead Just Dance and made a fool of myself, leaving him giggling with enjoyment as opposed to his normal unamused face. I was his friend at recess, his lunch buddy, and the only counselor to treat him as a child rather than a miscreant. I then saw a whole new kid. He grew enthusiasm and danced for the first time that summer. He carried himself differently and made new friends. He lost the yearning to run away and instead was teary-eyed at the thought of leaving.
The children of Santa Rita need role models who teach resiliency and persistence rather than discarding them at a young age. Growing up in this neighborhood, I understand the known alienation of the under-represented. Starting off with joining the Puente Project; I became the role model I needed when I was younger.
The Puente Project solidified my goal to attend a four-year university upon graduating high school. I was introduced to college-level multicultural literature that allowed me to develop my own critical consciousness. Senior year, we read Freire where I learned that as the oppressed, I must use my own individual agency to liberate myself. Through the Puente Club, we created a community with strong values of unity, support, wisdom, and encouragement. Through my Puente peers, I grew drive and courage to expand my horizons in other clubs through the Puente lens of succeeding as a collective rather than individually through sharing our scholarships, opportunities, and programs. I transformed the National Honors Society to incorporate Puente’s same mentorship aspect, my Associated Student Body to provide more accessibility to resources and tutoring, and my Student-Site Council to provide our principal with student insight on the support needed. Puente became my community and allowed me to build a community for others. This scholarship would help me get my degree for the children of my community, so they too can later accomplish the same.
Scholarship Essay by Katelyn Higareda
UCA’s most recent Scholarship Essay Contest for High School Juniors and Seniors officially ended on May 15, 2020. While the theme has always been to explore ways to make a more caring world, our most recent Essay Contest specifically asked how they would make a more caring world in one of four categories – Children – Animals – Reforestation – Elderly. The winning essays have been posted and awards distributed.
Because there were so many impressive essays submitted from across the U.S., we decided to share many of these students’ inspiring caring actions with you in this publication. Through their essays, the students provide a refreshing insight into their minds and hearts, offering an in depth view of our world that we often overlook. They take us on a journey rich in knowledge, personal experience and creative solutions. It is our hope you will feel as informed and inspired as we do. We are proud to present to you the writings, thoughts and dreams for a more caring future through these articles.