A note from UnidosNow: 2020 taught many lessons to all of us, but one that UnidosNow kept on learning was to be the advocate and support system for our struggling scholars and families who were being disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. UnidosNow adapted our programming and services to continue serving our families, but we also adapted our approach to last year's Giving Challenge to ensure we had the resources to be there to support our families. Below, read Camila Fermin's story, one of our Future Leaders Academy Barancik scholars to whom we've been able to help thanks, in part, to our successful 2020 Giving Challenge. In this essay, she recalls what 2020 meant for her and how UnidosNow was there to assist her.
In March of 2020, I left school for Spring Break. Junior year is chaotic to say the least, so I was nothing but excited to have some days off. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I became worried for the virus and disappointed I had to stay home, but I was still relieved to have more days off; "it will be just two weeks," I thought. And then the break extended to the rest of the school year –– and then I stayed quarantined at home for about 9 months.
Futures Leaders Academy Scholar Camila Fermin thanks the Giving Challenge for bringing opportunities to students like her.
My transition to senior year was more stressful than it should have been, thanks to the virus outbreak. While I worked on my resume and personal statement in the Summer through the Future Leaders Academy, the burdens of this worldwide phenomenon started to affect my life. At first, I spent long days taking care of my 5-year-old brother as my mom worked. Later, my stepfather and my mom lost their jobs due to layoffs; so, I spent long days with them as well. This situation was the origin of a serious financial struggle that meant a source of worry for my family.
Despite these hard circumstances, I was fortunate enough to rely on my second family. UnidosNow provided me with a support system that guided me through the hardships of 2020. My household was only one of the hundreds who benefitted, and continue to benefit, from the creation of an Emergency Fund that arose from the altruism and advocacy of donors and community members. My family was offered help with rent and utilities, expenses that meant a heavy weight on our shoulders.
UnidosNow created this video for the 2020 Giving Challenge which exemplifies the impact of our Future Leaders Academies:
Beyond economic assistance, UnidosNow gave me the opportunity to be heard, mentored, and motivated. When one's environment is out of our control, it is easier to lose incentive to work towards a goal, for it feels that we have no hold of our future to make this plan a reality. [...]
Today, as a young low-income woman who migrated from her homeland Venezuela only 3 years ago, I recognize the importance of optimism, sacrifice, and valuable relationships. I had the honor to serve as Class Speaker at my graduation ceremony; I conquered the obstacles that 2020 had for me, my generation, and the rest of the world; and I accepted a full ride at Stanford University, where I will head to in the Fall. UnidosNow is the pillar of these achievements. Thanks to the members of this organization and the donors who fund their labor, I did not only survive but thrived in my search for hope in the face of adversity.
To read more, visit https://unidosnow.org/unidos-to-find-hope-amidst-the-chaos/
To learn more about UnidosNow, visit https://unidosnow.org/