Karla’s Story: YA! Program Alumni Highlight

December 10, 2018

Throughout the week, we’re highlighting recent graduates from CLUES’ YA! Program. Since 2011, the program has guided more than 120 high school students to achieve their hopes and dreams through one-on-one mentoring, coaching institutes, academic support and community service-learning projects. Please consider supporting the YA! Program with a year-end financial gift! Thanks to a generous donation from the Land O’ Lakes Amigos group, all donations will be matched up to $5,000. Learn more here.


Karla’s Story

Karla is a first-generation Salvadoran-American student. She graduated from Tartan High School in the Spring of 2018, and now attends Augsburg University. We asked Karla about her experience with the YA! Program.

How did the YA! Program and your mentor prepare you for your life after high school?

The program gave me a mentor, someone I didn’t know, and gave an opportunity to share my story with that person. My mentor Jenny has been there for me in the bad and good. When I share about my life, she never judges me and she gives me advice in certain situations. She encourages me to do better and believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. We can share our views and share what we are going through. Jenni has made a big impact in my life. She’s been there as a friend as a mentor as a sister. She always asks me how I’m doing. She’s a very important person in my life until we die I guess! That’s the kind of relationship we have built up and created.

Are there specific activities, lessons or opportunities YA! provides that especially impacted you?

Even though I have done it many times, volunteering at Feed My Starving Children. YA! organized it and we went there with my mentor. Just listening to how many kids are starving for food… Those activities that YA! has provided for students to learn about the community, to support the community, learn to help and learn from the community.

I think civic engagement is a big one. As an individual I’m not big into politics. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just not my interest. I think YA! has helped me to change or build up an interest to learn about what is going on in the community. Learn about what will help or not help Latinos in the United States, or students.

With all the activities that I have done, YA! has really helped me with getting myself out of my comfort zone. Usually I’m not shy, usually I’m outgoing – but coming to the US not really knowing the language here, I built a bubble and I was not okay with leaving the bubble. I have seen myself growing and being outgoing again and speaking and talking to people. YA! has helped me with that tremendously. Freshman year I was sitting in the corner not talking. But now I’m the person going to people asking “Hey, how are you doing? How’ve you been?” I’m more confident and outgoing talking to people and meeting new people.

What have you learned about yourself throughout your journey with the YA! Program?

I’ve learned to be more open to people. Every time we go to YA! and talk about school and scholarships, I get motivated to do better and to go into the week and do the homework. I think that something that YA! has taught me is that even though at first something can seem really hard or difficult, at the end of the tunnel there’s a light. For me as a Hispanic, as an El Salvadorian, and looking back at my freshman year compared to now, I think I have grown a lot.

What is a moment or accomplishment that you are especially proud of?

Getting into college, getting those acceptance letters. I thought it was going to be very difficult for me to get into school or schools would reject me. Only one rejected me. I think that it was a huge win for me. I was admitted into Augsburg University where I am attending. They sent me an email saying that I qualified for a promise grant/scholarship program that helps four-year students. I applied in the beginning of the year and after lots of waiting, I got the email saying “Congratulations, you are one of the 25 that we have chosen.” I never thought this would happen to me. I thought I would have to pay loans. But getting into a program that will help me with my four years… Wow. I never thought I would get in.

Why do you think programs like YA! are important?

I think YA! is important because they help the students to be successful in life. They provide you with skills, and if you stay with the program for the four years, you will see that you have grown throughout those years. I think that is really important. And in life, meeting new people and learning from others are important. Programs like YA! help students grow a lot, learn a lot, and they get more motivated for their future.

What message or advice do you have for younger Latino students?

Situations are difficult right now; it’s hard to think that you have a future in this country. But don’t let that stop you. There are always opportunities. There are always doors opening, even if you think that the door is never going to open. Stick to your dreams and stick to what you want in 10 years, in 15 years, and how you want to help your family. Focus on being successful and learning about yourself. Loving yourself too and respecting yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, others won’t respect you. Life is hard but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

What does it mean to you and your family to graduate?

To me it’s a huge deal even though it is high school. For Latinos in this country, there are dropouts, and graduating for me means that I am not one of those dropouts. For me, graduation means the end of one chapter and starting another.  And starting a new chapter stronger with good perspectives. Even though bad situations will come, there is always a way, and there are always answers, and you will overcome challenges.

What’s next for you?

I’m attending Augsburg University, majoring in Psychology and Spanish. I want to be a Spanish teacher. I think that is next for me. I want to be involved in my community and college community.


If you would like to support students like Karla in achieving their hopes and dreams, consider becoming YA! Program mentor or making a donation to the YA! Program. Thanks to a generous donation from the Land O’ Lakes Amigos group, all donations will be matched up to $5,000! Learn more here.

Posted in CLUES Blog by Austin Wiebe