Life as a Migrant Student

Being a migrant student means being forced to move to different states due to parents looking for a job. These students make significant changes as they move from state to state in order to earn an income and support their family.I am one of the thousand migrant students in this country that work hard to help my parents.

The significant sacrifices and obstacles migrant students face make them strong. They face so many problems, but still manage to fine a balance between their school and life. What defines migrant students are their work ethic and willingness to keep moving forward, yet few people are aware of the hardships we, as students, face.

The Journey

Most students would say they travel, spend time with their family at the beach or in a different state during the summer, but that’s not the case for migrant students. Summertime is the opportunity to work instead of a time of relaxation. Migrant students spend their whole summer working in the fields, which is something they can choose to do or not do. However, this is a responsibility that the majority of migrant students take on in order to help their family. Their summer starts like a road trip where they travel to a new state far away from their home state.The road trip to the location is very tiring and can sometimes lead to accidents since it’s such a long ways ahead.  Looking for a place to live is just as stressful because sometimes the camps have harsh rules that must be followed and the rent most of the time is expensive.

Moving to different states means migrant students have to adapt to the new environment and work all the time. The struggles most of them have is not being able to focus on school or do other things they like because of the work schedule. The locations for work vary from Michigan to North Carolina and New Jersey.

A typical summer for a migrant student usually lasts 3 to 6 months with 12 hour work days, depending on how long the crops last. Some parents wait until school has ended to move to another state but not all. Returning to school is not easy because they don’t know if they are going back to the same school or will be able meet their friends again.

A former migrant student, Irene, has traveled to New Jersey to work in blueberry field for the past eight years. She started working right when school ends and returned to Florida when the crops end.

“My work experience is challenging because you have to work for long hours with the sun blazing over you,” adds Irene.

As the days go by migrant students learn the most valuable lessons in life. Working there allows one to realize how one must work hard in order to achieve their goals. The work conditions they face are harsh that include sun exposure (sunburn), chemicals, splinters, as well as other conditions that physically harms them.  Slowly, the summer days come to an end and the crops fade away. For some migrant students this means they can return to school, but, for others, this means moving with their parents to find additional work elsewhere.

Enrolling in a new school is the most overwhelming obstacle. Regardless whether the school system is the same or different, the students have to catch up on everything they missed since the beginning of school.

For migrant students, the start of school is not the first day of class. Rather, the first day of class is after the crops cycle has ended. Olgareli, a former migrant student, moved to North Carolina in the middle of the school year, then Michigan, and, finally, returned to Florida when school was already in session.

Academic Hardships

Starting school late is stressful because migrant students have to make up exams from last school year, catch up their current classes, as well as improve their English efficiency.Since most migrant students speak another language at home, like Spanish, they have a hard time separating the English language and Spanish language. This leads them to language, grammar, and punctuation barriers.

Common academic hardships are falling behind on school work, not having enough credits to graduate, and not being able to take certain classes because they are full or are conflict, like being too ahead, in order for the student to take the class. For example, if a student wanted to take Chemistry honors and enrolled late they might not be able to take that class because of late registration since the class is too ahead. Being a migrant student, unless they come at the start of the school, means delayed or missed opportunities.Falling behind on course work happens frequently. This influences their performance in school and can sometimes lead to dropping out. When the end of year exams start, migrant students are already in a different state because the start of another crop is starting. Missing exams is the downside of being a migrant student because the student has to make up all the exams and course work they missed.

There are resources that help migrant students, like the migrant program. In this program, migrant advocates motivate and push the students to succeed in school. Whether it is passing their final exams or catching up on their class, migrant advocates find any way to help their students.  One former migrant advocates states, “Migrant student are the strongest kids that I know because they are able to work in the field, handle moving from state to state as well as are able to maintain the schoolwork.” Migrant student work hard not only to maintain themselves, but also to maintain their family.

Nuestras Raíces

When the Europeans reached the Americas in 1492, different cultures met and ways of living changed forever. Even though many things were adopted such as the Catholic religion, other things were also lost. Many indigenous traditions coming from the Aztec and Mayan empires as well as from other indigenous tribes disappeared and from all of this, a nation of mestizos (of Spanish and indigenous blood) was created in Mexico.

Even after years and years of change, we continue to be connected to our indigenous ancestors in many ways and without even knowing continue to practice activities that reach back to these ancestral times. These activities and traditions connect us back to our ancestors and remind us that these indigenous culture are not really gone at all.

Women of all ages share their story of how they keep in touch with these indigenous cultures and stay connected to their roots everyday.

 

Gabriela Prieto has found other ways to stay connected to her indigenous roots. For her, being involved in the Danza Azteca, medicine ceremonies, and other spiritual and celestial ceremonies, is a way to stay connection to past generations.” The feeling that I get out of being a part of ceremony and other cultural practices, is a sense of profound self-understanding, humility, and an always growing devotion to my community,” said Gabriela. “I get a feeling of being deeply connected to generations that passed before me and generations that will come.”

Her own community is who taught her to stay connected to her roots and everyday she carries out activities that bring her back to these as well.

“My community taught me how to conduct myself in ceremony, but I taught myself how to pray and keep daily mindfulness of the profound lessons I have been given over the years.  If it weren’t for the Indigenous community, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I doubt that I would be as confident in my individuality,” said Gabriela.

I think it is important to stay connected to our indigenous roots as Latin@s/Xican@s because the Indigenous being is half of who we are as Mestizos. “I think it is time we celebrate our Native American roots and honor the history of the ancestors who laid claim to the Americas long before any other human being stepped foot here.”

For other women, being connected to the indigenous culture has always been part of their lives, they grew up learning how to appreciate this ancestral past and they continue to be connected to it in every aspect of their daily lives.

UTEP professor and Director of the Museo Urbano, Dr. Yolanda Chavez Leyva shares that her father is the one who taught her about their ancestors and their culture.

“I think it started with my father, my father’s grandmother was Raramury,” said Dr. Leyva. ” So he always raised me with the idea that we were indios and he was super proud of his abuelita…so it was something I always felt was part of us.”

She has now made a career out of staying connected to her indigenous ancestors. In her museum exhibits and Mexican American classes she always tries to include something that will show others how we are all still connected to out indigenous ancestors. She participates in danzas and matachines and the Danzantes del Sol as well as in sweat lodges, an indigenous tradition. Dr. Leyva also mentions that she lives a spiritual life where she does daily prayer in the indigenous languages.

She explains that she sees the indigenous culture everyday in life even when many don’t notice it. “I could see it in the words we would use. I saw it in the foods that we ate.” said. Dr. Leyva. “I tell my students, I ask them, how do you say grass in Spanish, everybody says zacate! Zacate is an indigenous word so you’re still using an indigenous language.” Dr. Leyva adds. “The Mexican Spanish and border Spanish is very indianized, so a lot of the words we use, we think are slang are really words in Nahuatl.”

She finds that it is important to know where we all came from.” I want us to have very firm roots of who we are, ” said Dr. Leyva. ” It helps us understand that we belong to this land. To me, these practices or this acknowledgement, it helps us to have a sense of belonging.”

To be connected to your roots means to hold that place where you came from in your heart. Even when being miles away from it or in a place where not everyone practices that culture, the everyday activities you carry is a way to stay connected to your roots and to feel that place nearby. It is up to you to maintain it alive and as long as you keep practicing these traditions, they will never die.

Redefining Mental Illness

It’s not physical, it’s not easy to understand, and, most of the time, it’s completely ignored or called “just a phase.” I’m talking about mental illness. In the Latin@ culture, stigma often follows mental illness. Your “abuelita” may have tried to cure your anxiety with home remedies by rubbing an egg all over you to get “el malo ojo” out. Or your tía saying to “get over it” because it’s only a phase. Deep down we know that it’s not that easy to remove what we’re feeling. Everyone has a battle to fight, but, chicas, you’re not alone.

Dealing with Depression

I experienced depression at a young age, but it became more evident in high school. I lost weight, I had no appetite, and I was becoming extremely introverted. The effects of all this led to more serious symptoms, bone pains, insomnia, and stomach cramps. My parents took me to various doctors to “fix” the problem, and the doctors would check my blood and do all kinds of crazy tests. To them, the problem wasn’t there because it was in my head.  Not once did they ask me how I truly felt. I had a boyfriend, I had great friends and a great family, but I just wasn’t happy. I didn’t see a purpose in life.

One day I was even taken to the emergency room due to serious joint pain and stomach cramps. Nothing was found, of course, except that I hadn’t eaten in 2 days. Through frustration my father said it was “all in my head.”  His words hurt me, it hurt a lot. He didn’t understand, but how could he? Growing up in Mexico meant that mental illness didn’t “exist.” I couldn’t blame my parents for not understanding what I was going through.

Depression followed me to college. Episodes happened, sleep was lost, and concentrating on my schoolwork was extremely hard. One day, through extreme insomnia, I made the decision to see a specialist. It was really difficult for me to get to this step in my life, but I knew I had to do something.

I held my rose gold iPhone in my hand, Student Health Center’s phone number on display, but all I could hear in my head was my Tía calling me crazy, saying it was all in my head, or saying this is a result from leaving to college. I was scared of the criticism, but I overcame it and finally made the phone call.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but I felt uneasy about the diagnosis. Self-doubt led to thinking if it was really in my head, and knowing what I had just made me feel more insecure! Luckily, my specialist, a very understanding Hispanic doctor, calmed by nerves by saying to “not feel insecure about this; mental illness is just like any other illness and it should not be considered any less. It’s serious and I’m proud of you for coming in on your own to get help. That’s brave. ”He mentioned how anyone who feels something wrong should always look for help. I was prescribed medicine and I was given techniques for my anxiety. For once, I felt the feeling of being able to concentrate on schoolwork and I could breathe without a bad sigh.

Stigma within the Latin@ Community

Stigma regarding mental illness is fairly common within the Latin@ community.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that lack and/or misunderstanding of information regarding mental health, language barriers,  lack of health insurance and/or legal status, misdiagnosis, homeopathic remedies, privacy concerns, and  religion are some of the leading causes that contribute to being resistant to mental health care, help, etc. In fact, Latinos are “less likely to seek mental health treatment.” This poses a risk since Latinas have higher risks of depression and suicide. A study on depression and anxiety within the Latin@ community by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University found that “First-and second-generation Hispanics/Latinos were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression than those born outside the U.S. mainland.” Mental health is real, and it should not continue to be stigmatized and treated as if it’s not.

Linda Eguiluz, a graduate from the University of Texas and now a graduate student at Lewis and Clark college, is familiar with dealing with mental health within the Latin@ community. As a graduate student, the pressures of school has led to dealing with anxiety.

“I think [being a Latina has] definitely affected the way I dealt with [anxiety] initially, and sometimes even now. There is no way to disassociate my ethnic identity from my mental illness, and it is a struggle to reconcile the cultural values placed upon me regarding mental health.”

“I know it is not an easy task to confront our own mental illness when we come from a culture where we are automatically labeled as broken. Educating our loved ones is not our primary responsibility, so it is important to reach out to people that can advocate for you and can guide you through the process. Family is important for latin@ folk, and having that extra layer of support is incredibly important for our well being and progress through medication and psychotherapy,” she adds.

So, chicas, please seek help if you feel that something isn’t right. You are not alone in this, and there are so many people who would love to help you. Seek help from a teacher, counselor, an adult, or make the decision to seek professional help yourself. Mental illness is just like any illness and it is not a joke.

Diary of an International Student

A story of an international student 

I look to my old self now and think: “Oh I’ve changed a lot.” A few years ago, I decided something that would change the rest of my life. I decided to come to study in the US and to leave my home in Mexico. My main motivation to come here was to follow my dreams. I’ve always wanted to do something different and positive that would benefit a lot of people. I wanted to become a journalist. So why not study in an American university and start working on my dreams now!

Not everything was easy.  I was really afraid. First of all, it was college and it’s a different environment from high school. Secondly, it isn’t my home. Most of the people around me used to say that I wouldn’t make it. A lot of them told me that I would come back before my first semester ended and some didn’t even want me to move away from my home! I also had to work on improving my knowledge of the English language. I fought against all the bad vibes and made it through.

Even if it’s a few minutes away between the my hometown of Juarez, Mexico and the neighboring border city of El Paso, Texas, everything’s different. I moved across the border to attend college and become an international student. The culture changes, the language, the ways people interact is different. At first, I wasn’t really excited about the differences. At the beginning, my surroundings were very different from what I was used to. People acted differently. It felt like not a lot was similar to what I was used to seeing every day. After a few days of “analyzing” the place and observing, I realized that it’s not that different. It’s just a different stage of my life. It would have been the same back in Mexico. It is just that I was growing up and that I was about to enter a new chapter of my life.

It’s hard at first to adjust to a new place. It is important to not to try to “fit in” and be like the rest. What I did was act like myself and adapt to something new. More than a year later, here I am telling you my story and my journey through it.

What do I miss? I miss my old friends. I rarely see them. When I do, there isn’t enough time. I miss spending every minute of my day with them and doing the crazy things we used to do. A good thing is that I made new friends, and I appreciate every single one of them.

I love being here. I love the reason why I’m here. I’m here to follow my dreams and to become a better person. If you’re in the same situation as I am, that is amazing. This is a great purpose and you can achieve everything you want. If you live in another country and your dream is to come here to the US, do it. You can work hard for it. Some people may be against you and your ideals, but at the end it will all be worth it. While I’m still far from achieving what I want, today I can be happy because I’m on my way.

Coming to America

Dominican-Republic4

Christina Lorenza Aybar (Peralta – her mother’s maiden name which was removed when she became a U.S. citizen) was four years old when she moved from the Dominican Republic (DR) to the United States. She grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan, New York, and now lives in South Texas. She is a wife and a mother of three children. She works with children at a school as the Science-Technology manager.

Q: Okay, so to start off, do you remember anything from the day you came to America?
A: I remember when, on the day, we were coming to the United States, I remember saying bye to everybody.

Q: Did you know what was going on? Were you sad?
A: I think I knew we were leaving to move somewhere else. Yeah, I was sad saying goodbye to everybody.

Q: Do you remember anything from the trip?
A: I remember being on the plane and looking out the window, and then I remember fussing with the curtains, and it feel down. I guess it broke, and I fell asleep until it was time to get off.

Q: When you were sixteen and visiting the Dominican Republic, did you wish you had never moved? Or were you just happy to be visiting?
A: I was happy to be visiting, happy to be meeting my cousins for the first time that I had never met before, but I was happy I lived in New York.

Q: Who was in the U.S. when you came over?
A: My mom, dad, one sister, and one brother.*
*Christina is the youngest of ten, she has six sisters and three brothers.

Q: How old were you when your parents moved away?
A: I think I was about two and a half when my parents first moved from the Dominican Republic.

Q: Do you think you know enough about Dominican history and culture?
A: No. I wish I knew more.

Q: Did you ever want to live there or move back?
A: No, I never wanted to live there because I was used to living in the United States, and over there it’s very different. The electricity goes away for periods of time and the water comes and goes, as does the hot water, and I couldn’t get used to that.

Q: Where were you born?
A: In Santiago, well, in the country…but I don’t remember the name. En el campo.

Q: In New York, what were your parents’ jobs?
A: My mom worked as a seamstress in a factory, and my dad had several jobs, but when I got there he was a dishwasher in the Sheraton Hotel.

Q: So were they gone a lot because they were always working?
A: The way it worked, my mom worked during the day and my dad worked at night. He would make me breakfast and lunch, then around 3 o’clock, we would walk halfway to the train station (subway station), and my mom would pick me up. Then he’d take the train to work, and my mom and I would walk back home.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about the Dominican Republic?
A: When I visited when I was 16, and then again when I was 20, it was so peaceful and everything was nice and clean, just the country itself. Skies were blue and the trees were really green. People could leave the doors open and not have any problems.

Q: So you visited again when you were 20?
A: My parents had retired, so they went back and I went with them. I visited and I was going to live there, but I had a job back in New York before I left, at Albert’s Hosiery, and the owner kept sending messages asking me to come back, and I hadn’t gotten a job in the Dominican Republic, so I decided to go back to New York and work.

Q: You said you loved that the Dominican Republic was peaceful when you were younger. When you visited when you were older, it wasn’t as peaceful anymore?
A: Things had changed, there was more violence. We stayed in Santo Domingo with my mother-in-law. No, it wasn’t as peaceful.

Q: What’s your favorite Dominican food?
A: Sancocho. It’s kind of like a beef stew, rather than soup, I guess. It has the meat and a mixture of vegetables.

Q: And your favorite Dominican dessert?
A: Dominican cake with a guayava filling in the middle.

Q: Did you get to go to all of the “cool” places in DR?
A: No, not all of them. When I was sixteen, I went to Puerto Plata with my uncle. We stayed at this resort kind of thing, called El Sombrero because all of the huts were in the shape of a sombrero. And then we took telefericos, cable cars, to go up into mountains where the huge Jesus statue is. It’s beautiful up there and there are these beautiful gardens with plants and flowers. It’s really beautiful.

Oh! And on the way to Puerto Plata, when we were almost there, we were on the cable cars and we could see a house built on the side of the mountain shaped like a ship facing the ocean. I thought it was really cool!

We went to a beach, Puerto Escondido, or Playa Escondida, and it’s called that because it’s hidden. You park and then you have to walk through trees and stuff, and you get there and you see the beach and the water’s clear and everything.

I went to Santo Domingo, to El Malecon, which is a big wall by the ocean where people go to hang out and there are restaurants there. I visited the Basilica en Higuey when I was older, it was my first time there. It’s beautiful, and we saw La Virgen de Altagracia – she’s treated the way La Virgen de Guadalupe is treated by most Mexicans. I went to la playa de Sosúa, which is near Puerto Plata too.

When I was sixteen, we’d walk from my uncle’s house to el monumento de Santiago, and people would hang out there. It was a long walk, but my cousin, Milagros, and I would do it anyway.

Q: Anything else?
A: No, I’m sorry I can’t remember a lot about coming to America. I was little…I’ve forgotten a lot.

Although Christina may not want to move back to DR any time soon (or ever), she is happy to be from there and happy to be able to visit whenever she gets the chance.

My Mom is Special

Latinitas share why their moms are special.

“My mom is special to me because she has been my best friend throughout my life. She is a strong woman and caring to my two brother and I. She is a very funny person and you can always count on her to trust your deepest secrets. She will always try her best to help and guide you to the right path. I love my mom with all my heart and I am sure I would be lost without her. Her name is Maria Luisa, but her friends call her Malicha. I can tell you that she is always smiling and having fun. As a regular mom, she has had her battles in life. She is always pushing herself for better opportunities and looking for the best way to educate us. She is my Super Women and I want to have the same spirit as she has. I own her tons! I know that I haven’t been an easy daughter, but she has been my best friend, partner in crime and my teacher thoughout my school years.” –Ariadne Venegas

 

“The most influential person in my life is definitely my mother. Growing up she always set an example of independence and what it meant to do things on her own without a husband. I remember seeing her come home from work when I was young. Even when she was very tired, she would kick off her heels and join me on the couch to watch movies and catch up on how our day went. She made me believe that everything was possible, being a great mother and having a career. I remember daydreaming of the day that I would be able to work and go to college, the very situation I am currently in. Seeing her busy and always having something to do was something that I always admired. The most important thing that I admire about my mother is her honesty. She never strays away from those hard questions that would reveal something about her not being a “perfect” mom. I think that all of those hard stories she told me about her personal life to answer my “life questions” definitely molded me.  My mother’s honesty is something that I have. I’ve always had an unfiltered way of looking at the world. It has helped me communicate better and ultimately it is responsible for my choice to stay in the communications field.” – Jackeline Gomez

 

“I want to say I am so grateful with God for giving me the best mom that I could have. My mom has always been there for me even in my worst moments where I have felt so sad and I just go up to her and cry. She is always there to hug me and comfort me. She always talks to me for a long time and always lets me know how much she loves me no matter what. I am really very thankful with God because he is so good to me that he gave me my family that is the greatest gift I have. I can remember that my mom has always been there with me in my good moments and bad ones too. When I was little, I remember she would always go and volunteer with my pre-k teacher to go to the field trips we had. I have so many memories with my mom of when I was a little girl. When I look at the pictures I have with my mom on family vacations, I always smile. I will always cherish the moments I have with my mom. I don’t know what in the world I would do without my mom. I think I would feel a big emptiness because she has a very special place in my heart. I know of all the struggles she has been through, but she is very strong and still keeps her smile. I have seen her cry and it breaks my heart to see her sad. Every time she cries, I end up crying too. I always tell her that the problems and bad situations in our life are not forever. Everything has a solution in this life. She has done so much for me, she takes me to school whenever she can. She always cares for me and my little sister and brother. I would never let anybody hurt or talk bad about my mom or my family. I also have videotapes that my mom recorded when me and my brother where little, she loved to record every single moment she had with us and we have so many pictures together. My mom is always giving me advice  and is always there when I feel confused, sad or mad. I love to spend time with my mom. Whenever I don’t have something to do, we go to eat together, shopping or to watch a movie.” -Vanessa Ramirez

Honoring Motherly Figures

Latinitas Austin - Parent and Daughter Workshop

Latinitas Austin – Parent and Daughter Workshop

Mother’s Day is the day you go above and beyond to support, spoil, and go over the top to find the perfect gift for your mom. You tell your mom you love her, you tell her things you don’t tell her every day, the same things, year after year. For some people, this is an exciting and a happy day, but for others, it’s a bittersweet feeling. For some, a motherly figure is sometimes not even a woman.

Some girls experience the love of a mother for a temporary amount of time and only have one person to look up to. “I still have a mother, but she left when I was only 8 years old. I have siblings, but they all live in different cities and I’m not as close to them. They’re much older than I am, and it’s only my dad and I. When it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t feel mad, but I also don’t feel happy. I sometimes do feel sad, because I really have no feminine guidance or help,” said Stephanie, 23. She grew up on her own, went through a girl’s passage to a lady on her own, with no one but her dad to look up to.

“But I love my dad, and he goes beyond what I ask for him, only to make sure I’m well. I wouldn’t trade him for anything or anyone, he might not be my mom, but he’s much more; he’s both parents,” Stephanie added. Although she no longer has her mother, she still feels secure and happy with her own motherly figure, her father.

Even though Stephanie went through harsh times, she always knew she could count on her dad, and doesn’t hold grudges against her mom for not being there. She considers her dad as both parents because he has been trying to play both roles throughout her life.

Other girls have experienced a great loss of their mother, but still feel close despite her passing. “I lost my mom 2 years ago. I loved her with all my heart, and it completely destroyed me when she left, but I know she’s in a happier place now. When Mother’s Day comes, I don’t feel sad. My family and I still wish her a happy Mother’s Day, and we still appreciate everything she ever did for us,” said Maria, 19. Although Maria lost her mom when she was 17 years old, she still takes flowers to her mom, she still talks to her, and she knows her mother is watching out and taking care of her.

“Before I go to bed I like to talk to her about my day. I ask her for help when I need it, and sometimes I even feel her hugging me when I’m sad,” Maria added. She knows she isn’t physically with her anymore, but even then they still have a close relationship. Maria still thinks her mom is with her, even if it is only by spirit, because she feels a strong bond that unites her and her mom.

While certain girls have the privilege to have been raised by their own mother, some didn’t get the chance to ever meet their own mother. “I never met my mother. I’ve seen her in pictures though, and she was beautiful. I was raised by my grandma, and I consider her my mother. I know she’s always there if I need anything. During Mother’s Day, I celebrate my grandmother, even with her age, she took me in and gave me everything and much more, even when she couldn’t. I look up to her, she is my motherly figure,” said Andrea, 20.

We all have different stories, some are similar, but none are the same. A mother is irreplaceable, and some play the role wonderfully. Even though some people have gone through roller coasters of feelings, they always have that one person to look up to when they’re feeling down. Make sure you say thank you, not just during Mother’s Day, and show them how much you appreciate what they do for you, a mother, a father, your own motherly figure.

Living with Diabetes

Danielle, age 17, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was three years old. “I felt scared and did not know what to think. I was not aware of what it meant to be diabetic, but I had a feeling I was going to have it for a long time…” she said. Although she did not find it difficult to adjust because she was diagnosed at such an early age, Danielle’s lifestyle does interfere with her daily activities.

“I have to watch what I eat and make sure I am always putting some sort of exercise in my day, even if I do not want to. At school, if I am to take a test, I [have] to test my blood sugar to see if I am able to concentrate only on the test because if my sugar is too high I need to [take] insulin and wait [until] my sugar is back down to take the test. But if my sugar is low I need to go to the nurse and get a snack to bring my sugar back up to the right sugar, so I won’t be falling asleep while I am taking the test.”

Danielle is aware of the complications that can come from not managing her diabetes. “My mom passed away because she did not take care of her diabetes and went into a diabetic coma,” she said. Like her, her sister also suffered from diabetes. “My older sister had a pancreas and kidney transplant. She had kidney failure because of her high blood sugars and she was close to dying so she was put on a transplant list in Phoenix, Arizona. She also got a pancreas as well which is why she is no longer diabetic and is doing much better…”

Blood sugar monitoring is a vital part of treating diabetes and it can save a person’s life. Danielle herself has experienced complications due to unstable blood sugar levels. “I have gone into diabetic reactions [when] my blood sugar goes way too low and I am unconscious. I have gone into DKA [or] diabetic ketoacidosis [when] my blood sugars were way too high and we were not able to get them back down,” Danielle said.

In situations like these she stresses it is important to remain calm. “The thing to know is that you should not panic if your friend is right next to you and faints…find someone who knows what to do…look in their bag, see what sugar you can find… Sugar is the most important thing to get into the body if [glucose] is too low… whatever you do, don’t panic,” Danielle recommended.

She also encourages people who know someone with diabetes to help through positive support by accompanying them to the doctor or to tests. “[Help your] friends out if they need it, give them smart advice and encourage them along the way …” Most importantly, Danielle believes the best way to help a friend with diabetes is to be normal. “Treat them as you do everyone else. Don’t change just because you found out something new about them, unless they need your help.”

As a young girl with diabetes, Danielle says it’s important to be optimistic if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with the disease. “[Don’t] be down and depressed about it because, yes it puts stress on you, but I mean, you’re still living life, if you take care of yourself you will grow old and be able to see you kids, grandkids, and great grandkids grow.”

November 2010

Latinitas On the Campaign Trail

My sister, Mistique, at the age of 16, was the type of teenager who asked for subscriptions to Time Magazine and Newsweek; now all these years later, I understand why. Instead of fighting over the cartoon channel or CNN with my sister, it was which cab to chose, or how to hail it during my recent visit to see my sister in Pennsylvania.

I have never met anyone who is more involved in fighting for people’s rights, than my sister, who is now the Press Secretary for the John Kerry campaign in Pennsylvania, also known as Victory ‘04. Politics has always been on her diet, even from when she was the Communications Director at a political research & polling firm in Washington D.C to studying in South Africa and obtaining her degree in Political Communications at George Washington University.

She has always been someone who will jump from one assignment to the next; never giving up until it’s done. All her efforts reflect the 21 electoral votes to win Pennsylvania for Presidential Nominee, John Kerry, in the 2004 Election.

Mistique works from about 6 a.m. till 12 a.m. or even the early morning hours. Her days always consist of writing numerous press releases, attending press conferences, answering phone calls and arranging for press to be at the daily events. Even with her busy schedule, I was able to spend time with her; even if most of the time was at work, while on my first, visit to Pennsylvania. While I was there, I volunteered for the Kerry Campaign and learned what it was like to be in my sister’s shoes.

It was an amazing experience to see my sister chat it up with the Governor of Pennsylvania, Edward G. Rendell, like it was just in a day’s work. In the past few months, my sister has been at events with notables such as John Kerry, John Edwards, Ben Affleck, Chris Heinz, Governor Howard Dean, Barak Obama, former President, Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton.

She isn’t the sister I used to know, but I guess that’s what happens to you when you eat, drink and sleep politics. Her constant vibrating phone never seems to annoy her or get in the way of her lifestyle. She loves her job and I can see why. My sister is passionate about her work and truly believes that John Kerry is the right choice for our country.

Her Press Secretary days will soon be over after the election is decided. I know she will take her experiences and move to her next political project. She will continue fighting to make a difference; however small or big it may be.

By Megan Cano