Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2016 – Healing Hearts

Name: Victoria Castillo
From: Los Angeles, California
Grade: 11
School: USC Hybrid High School
Votes: 0

           As I walk into my house, my first priority is to sign a field trip slip to San Diego State University before my college counselor kills me. I hear my phone ring and look at the text message “Mom: Hey baby, I had a last minute trip to New York. See you Sunday. Make sure to walk the dogs! Love you”, that means I’m going to have to make dinner and have to wait for my older sister to sign my permission slip.

Being raised by a single mother teaches any child independence. I had to apply for my high school, jobs, college courses, and extra academics on my own while my mom worked and traveled. My mom deserves a lot of credit, however. She always made sure I had everything I needed. There was really no need for my dad to teach me things I learned from my mom. I did, however, collect father figures as I grew up. One man, whom I considered to be my dad, had given me just the right amount of attention to keep my childhood lively; I never needed anyone else. The memories of him showing up to father’s day activities and taking me to get coffee and doughnuts on summer nights are nostalgic tales I tell to the hyper eight-year-olds I tutor at my local organization. He had died from heart failure in my freshman year of high school– I leave that part out.

Losing a father in that situation wounded me. My therapist and I figured out why I had developed anxiety after his death: a fear of isolation grew in me because the only person I ever needed was gone. My anxiety made me paranoid about everything. Every social aspect of my life had now been compromised and narrowed to one thing “They’re only tolerating you.” I had panic attacks during school and at home with no one to tell and with no mother’s consoling. It was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced in my life, but I soon realized that I wasn’t alone . My boss, the athletics director of the local organization I worked for, heard of my predicament and placed me in the “crazy eight” department, as he calls it. I now had to help eight-year-olds with their homework while grieving,
great. I later realized it wasn’t so bad. This place was full of compassionate and driven children who were ready to learn. They eased
my soul with drawings, painting, poems, and food.

           My boss, Bruce, still had other plans and made me Assistant Tutor, which required me to leave “the crazy eights” and tutor high school students. I was so skeptical and practically begged Bruce to put me back with my eight-year-olds, but Bruce had said, “I promise, this will be good for you”. I took a chance and trusted him; I ended up tutoring these kids in math, English, Spanish, Biology etc. To say
these teenagers drove me crazy would be an understatement. However, they felt really comfortable around me. I was someone who they could talk to. I ended up coming Tuesdays and Wednesdays to the organization to help these teenagers with life and school. I had
gone there so frequently that I ended up finishing my sophomore community service.

Ultimately, somewhere within my paranoia, I realized that I became the same figure that man was to me to those teens. I then took the steps to become Victoria, my own being. I took tutoring to a new level and shared my number with the kids and tutored offline. Bruce had urged me to take college courses to help me get ahead in my educational career. He said, “ With that big of a brain and heart, it seems like this place just isn’t enough”; he could have never been so wrong.

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