“I’m not God to judge nobody, yes my father made many mistakes and he had a lot of chances but I, as a human being make mistakes as well… and the only way to live in peace is by forgiving”. This was one of my many thoughts during my Colorado trip two years ago. Before this trip, I thought I was strong because of all what I’ve been through, but compared to what I experienced on my trip, it made me think twice. Since I was a little girl, I had a horrible experienced with my father. Instead of loving him, I hated him; for all those nights of fear, those nights of violence, those nights where he blamed me for all his problems.
Arriving to the United States was a dream come true. It was a whole new life for me, not only living in a different country but living with a stranger, my father. The two years I lived with him were a nightmare. But I’m not here to talk about how horrible my life has been for the past seven years but to reflect on how much I have grow as a person. Growing up in a violent environment, it forced me to mature at a young age. My life began changing when I entered high school. I had more opportunities to be myself and to find people that might be going through similar situations like mine.
A program, in particular, caught my attention. The program helps low-income students to become leaders, go to college and be successful. Summer Search, it was the beginning of my new life. The process to be accepted was rigorous. I had to open myself to strangers and tell them about my life. I have never done that, I always keep everything to myself and once I let all my feelings out, I realized that I have a good messed up life. But my main reason to join this program was for me to be a normal teenager with a lot of friends. And it happened. I was accepted into a family that constantly reminds me that I’m way too young to be looking out for my sister. I am constantly remembered that I deserve a better life because I have work hard to get where I am today. Summer Search encourages me to do better, to be stronger, to reach out and be heard. I was often told that I needed to speak up more for myself. I used to always keep quiet and do what others wanted me to do. I tried to please the rest of the world but me. Now, Summer Search is teaching me that I can’t fix everyone’s lives. I am someone who has been hiding in my problems for a while and should be leaving my past behind.
Summer Search provided me with two trips during the past two summers. One to an expedition to Colorado for three weeks and the second one for a two week enrichment classes at Penn State University. In Deer Hill Colorado I realized that I’m capable of doing anything. The first two weeks were adventurous. The last week, I lived in a Hopi Reservation with a Hopi family. And let me tell you, it was the best week of my life. The Hopi family took me into their home and treated me as one of their children. I didn’t even mind the long hours of work around the community, everything was worth it when I heard my new parents say “I’m proud of you”. It was the first time anyone has ever said those words to me. I cried of happiness. My second trip was different. I was by myself, no mentors, no Hopi family. I had to make myself stand out in the crowd in order to make friends. This was my time to prove to myself that College is a place so diverse that if I don’t get myself known, I will be a “nobody”. I became more active and tried my best to make the best out of everything. In these two trips, I learned how to stand out, how to be a leader, and how to make friends. I was forced to forget about those back home and just focus on myself. I was able to see that I can interact with people my age, that I am not so different after all. I was able to smile and not think about tomorrow. I was able to be happy for more than a day. I met awesome people that by just looking at me they saw how much potential I have. It was a great experience to interact with so many different people, different cultures. Summer Search lent me a hand that has changed my perspective towards life. I am now a more active person, someone that can easily interact with others, learn from others. Someone that is not afraid to reach out for help. I am a different Melissa than the one from seven years ago. I have many goals that I know I will achieve one day. I learn to love me for who I am and not for what others say. I learn from my mistakes and if I fail, I try it more times until I get it right.
I am now a leader; I now carry the reins of my life. I now follow my own path.