I migrated from Cuba with my mother at the age of seven. My father remained in Cuba since my parents were separated when I was very young, so I was raised in a single-parent home for about a year before my mother remarried. My stepfather was abusive – verbally and physically – and sold drugs.
Soon, I turned to the streets to find the love and acceptance that I was missing in my life. On the streets, I wasn’t accepted either, and needed to become someone else to ‘fit in.’ At the age of twelve, I got drunk for the first time, and the gateway was opened. I soon progressed to marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, mushrooms, ecstasy, and more. Soon, I found myself deep in the world of addiction and began to associate myself with gangs and criminal activity.
From ages 15 to 16, I was probably arrested six times, the last landing me in a juvenile detention center for three months, and then I was sent to a level six program for six more months. After completion, I was released back into society, with the terms being that I complete the AMIkids Miami-Dade program. There, my life finally began to change.
At AMIkids, I learned many lessons. I learned the cause and effect of actions and the value of discipline and respect. You can achieve anything if you are willing to work for it, and although it took them some tough love to get through to me, they were able to transform a kid heading down a road of drugs, gangs, and crime to creating a sense of maturity, accountability, and an understanding of what it would take to make a positive life for myself. Through hard work and a renewed sense of self, I earned the ‘admiral’ scholarship from AMIkids which has provided assistance to my tuition as I pursue my undergraduate degree.
I am completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and plan on starting a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. I also work full-time at the university where I study, and serve as an admissions counselor who gets the privilege to work with prospective students seeking enrollment.
Finally, I am a licensed minister for the church of the Nazarene and function as an associate pastor; working with the congregation, youth, and a residential faith-based substance abuse program. I am not only able to share my life experiences and transformation with the youth going through similar challenges I faced, but I am able to instill the values in them that AMIkids instilled in me.
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