Stories of Inspiration

ERIKA

From Childhood Sacrifices to the Ivy Leagues

Erika is a sophomore at Brown University. She is happy studying to become the surgeon she always wanted to be.
But Erika’s journey was not easy.

She is the daughter of immigrants—the first of her family born in the United States and the first to graduate high school. Her parents, in fact, never made it past the 5th grade. Therefore, maintaining a stable job was difficult for either one of them. This meant making sacrifices most people never face. Many months they were forced to make difficult decisions, which necessity could they go without? Water, gas, electric, food—there were many times when they had to sacrifice one for the other. Putting food on the table but eating by candle light, their house having no electricity.

As immigrants, Erika’s parents lived day to day with the fear of separation or losing their home, fears that weighed heavily on Erika through her elementary school years. She found it difficult to focus on school or just being a kid.

But when Erika reached the 5th grade, her life took a big turn. She was matched with her mentor, Cecilia, at New Pathways for Youth. At the time, she had no idea what this meant for her, but a decade later, she can say exactly what it has meant to her:

  • It meant having someone who is willing to listen, provide advice and help you to achieve your goals.
  • It meant having someone who helped her organize a bake sale to be able to go on school trips and see possibilities she never knew existed.
  • It meant that she had the ability to know how to apply to elite universities and compete amongst peers who had better elementary and high school education than she did.
  • It meant gaining important life skills she needed in order to leave home in Phoenix and be prepared with a steady support system to help her live on the East Coast…and in the snow!
  • It meant having a constant source of guidance amidst all the unsteadiness she felt and knew in her home and in a violent neighborhood.
  • It meant nurturing a dream that lived inside her.

New Pathways for Youth made Brown University and Erika’s future life in medicine the new possibility she could have never imagined on her own. So much so, that she is now a mentor at Brown!

Erika’s story shows us that every at-risk youth presents an opportunity to those more fortunate who would take up the struggle for better outcomes—outcomes made possible by New Pathways for Youth and our transformative mentoring program.

JENNIFER