Adelante Mujeres, especially the program Chicas, did what I thought was impossible: it made me believe in myself again.

When I first came to this country, I was 11 years old. I didn’t speak, understand or write English. I came here with my mom and my little sister, but the rest of my family and all of my friends were in Mexico. I felt so alone. I also missed my dad. He had passed away one year before we moved here. That was why we moved to the United States. My mom was not able to find work in Mexico to support us.

My dad was my hero, and losing him was the worst nightmare. At 11, I couldn’t understand what I did wrong in life for God to make me suffer that way. And coming here felt like part of the nightmare. I hated it here. I couldn’t find my place here. I wanted to go back to Mexico, my home.

Time passed, and although it was very difficult, I started to learn day by day how to live in my new reality. I made some friends at school. Little by little, I started to learn the language. I started to like it here.

But every time I could sense a little happiness coming into my life, it would get clouded with pain and sadness. This happened until my sophomore year in high school when a friend mentioned a club called Chicas. She told me they took field trips and did other fun activities. Joining activities scared me. But since my friends were going to join, I decided to give it a try.

I have to be honest: I loved the program from the first day, because it made me feel at peace, which was something I didn’t feel too often.

Joining Chicas was and is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I could see right away that the staff really cared about each and every one of us. They made me realize that, yes, life can be difficult and we all go through very hard situations, but we need to learn from them and keep moving on with our lives. We need to learn to focus on the positive things that come from negative situations.

Chicas gave me the space I needed to be able to open up and talk about how I really felt inside. They helped me come out of my negative shell and to become once again the girl I was before I lost my dad, the girl who was full of life and wanted to conquer the world. It took two years for that to happen. And throughout those two years, Chicas was always there supporting me in every way possible.

This program not only helped me believe in myself once more, but it also helped me get involved in other after school programs. Chicas took us to different colleges to explore career options, and got us involved in community service. These experiences helped me realize that I love working with people and that I want to be in a career where I will be able to help people. My goal is to become a nurse and work with children diagnosed with cancer.

Chicas is an amazing program. The work we are doing with the girls is changing their lives in a very positive way. See, a girl can have the potential to be successful in life, but if she doesn’t believe in herself or if she has a negative perspective about life, she will not take the opportunities life offers her to succeed. How do I know that? Because I was that girl, and this program helped me to change that.

The only way I know how to show how grateful I am to the Chicas program is by accomplishing my goals. And that is what I plan to do!

Mayra Carranza is Chicas’ youth development graduate and facilitator. Chicas is one of the core programs of Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove-based organization that provides education and empowerment opportunities to low income Latina women and their families in Washington County.

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine