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   WZM Award for Compassion 


Ruth Handy  presenting WZM  Award for Compassion


WZM Award presented on May 25, 2011 to Vanessa Garcia, Jefferson High School






My Story
By Vanessa Garcia

It has been very challenging growing up in a troubled neighborhood especially when I had friends and family member involved in gangs and drugs. I have witnessed shootings, drive-bys, and people getting jumped and threatened. I have also witnessed domestic violence in my own home. I met my step father when I was four years old. My step father was a caring person but he had an alcohol problem. His alcoholism was the issue that overwhelmed our lives.

Despite witnessing domestic violence at home I have dedicated myself to my studies. I come from a very humble family of three. I live with my mother and my older brother. None of my parents have gone to college. I will be the first one in my family to go to college. I work financially to help my mother. I do not like seeing her worry about paying bills and rent. While most of my friends go out to party in the weekends and worry about being in vogue, I worry about helping my mother with household costs. This is why I work in the weekdays and weekends to help my mother pay for bills and also to pay for my own expenses. To be honest it is a challenge to work in the weekday because I have to make time for my homework, extracurricular activities, clubs, family and friends.

All through my middle school years I have known it was difficult for my mother to raise us on her own. I was thirteen years old when our economic situation was the worst. We did not have enough money to pay rent and bills so in my vacation before I went into the ninth grade my mother, brother and I went to live temporally with my aunt in Bakersfield.

There we found our temporary job as migrant workers cutting grapes in the vineyards. It was a very difficult job because we had to wake up at the crack of dawn and arrived home at five in the evening. This experience had a great impact on me because it made me realize how fortunate I am to have my education. I was only thirteen when I got this job and this has taught me to be very appreciative and compassionate to other peoples’ situation.

The circumstances in which I was raised in have impacted my life. For me to succeed academically is important because I consider this the best way to help my family prosper. The troubles I saw at home and in my neighborhood have given me the motivation to really stay true to myself. I plan to go to the University of California, San Diego and major in sociology. My goal is to improve the lives of people who come from the same background as me. I want to support families who are lacking the resources, the opportunities, and the support that they need to improve their lives.


Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
(818) 834-5925


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