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• Lisa Rios
Carlos y Anabella Ventura

Jose y Pily Zamora Castellanos

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Lisa Rios Family Album

I come from two Latino parents who came to America and met in San Francisco, California, where they got married. My mom came from Nicaragua, when she 16, to live with her grandmother in San Francisco. My paternal grandfather packed his six boys up in the station wagon and drove from El Salvador to America seeking a better life.

I was born in the Mission and grew up in the Excelsior district. As I got older and started going out and hanging out, I came across alcohol and drugs and started partying all-night and skipping school.

My dad wasn't really around and my mom was struggling to provide and raise my brother and I. I didn't really have much support. And as I got older and stayed out longer, I stopped caring about what my mom thought and school and what would happen.

It wasn't until my best friend convinced me to try and go to her Catholic high school that things started changing. Through a special financial aid arrangement the school made with my mom, I was able to attend this new high school. But because my record at public school was so bad, I had to start my new high school fresh. However, I graduated high school in 4 years and went on to go to college a year after graduation.

I didn't finish college for alot of reasons. But when I was 24, I had Jasmine. She is really a miracle in my life. She's a true blessing. Of course, she's a handful. And I can remember that when she was a little baby, I couldn't wait for her to grow up enough to have a whole conversation. And now that she's 9, I have trouble keeping her quiet sometimes. She's always asking questions and curious about everything. But I like that she's so thoughtful and bighearted. I learn from her all the time. And because of my own education, I feel like I can really help her out with her schoolwork in the way that I wished my parents could have helped me out when I was going to school.

Two years after I had Jasmine, I went back to school to get my certificates in medical assistance, injection card and phlebotomy. Since then, I've been attending City College to study firefighting. I've been working full-time, raising my daughter, going to school, and looking for more part-time work. I'm doing all of this because I want to make sure that my daughter has everything that I didn't have when I was a little girl. I want to make sure that she's always taken care of.

I didn't realize until it was too late that all of my school records from elementary, middle school, and high school would matter when I got to college. I want to make sure that she has a good school record so that she has a better chance at going to all the big name universities and colleges that are hard to get into.

If it wasn’t for my daughter I honestly think I would be in jail today. Because I now have a responsibility ever since I had her and if I don’t take care for her, who will? No one is going to give her the love and care like me – her mom. I’m the one who needs to be strong here because she has a deadbeat dad.

She keeps me cool when I am angry or having a bad day, she worries about me and asks me questions about my day. She tries to make me feel better. She inspires me and I learn from her as well. I’ll pick her up from school and she’ll start telling me about what she learned that day. It could be about someone I heard about before, but can’t remember what they did. She’ll tell me what that person has accomplished, which surprises me and makes her so smart. She asks a lot of questions if she doesn’t know something. I'm so proud of her and she's the best thing that's ever happened in my life. She makes me want to accomplish more in life, not only for myself, but mostly for her.


This project was funded by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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