Mission Promise Neighborhood student Anahi Velazquez had the usual stresses of being a senior at John O’Connell High School. There’s peer pressure. Studying to get good grades. Thinking about college.
But Anahi’s stress was all the greater: she was undocumented, having emigrated from Mexico in 2007 in search of a better life.
“I was always thinking, ‘What if ICE comes and takes me? What will happen to my family,’” explains the now 19-year-old.
Pushing forward, the industrious student learned English, hit the books, organized a Latino Club and took after-school jobs. Anahi was consistently on the honor roll for grades and attendance, later garnering good scores on her ACT and SAT exams. This translated to acceptance to San Francisco State University, where Anahi starts as a freshman this fall.
Anahi always had her future in mind; she wanted to help her community, especially around health issues. She whet her appetite for this subject while part of John O’Connell High School’s Health and Behavioral Science Integrated Lab, an innovative curriculum where students solve real-world problems.
Anahi knows all too well that many Latino immigrants do not seek health care because of their being undocumented. That is why she volunteered with a trio of organizations that serve the health needs of communities of color, where she saw firsthand the stressors that caused medical issues.
Working to eradicate other obstacles to Latino economic success, Anahi joined the Good Samaritan Latino Leadership, walking alongside members during the “March of Gentrification.” She also took to the streets of the Mission to protest evictions, plus took part in the “May Day/El Da Del Trabajo” march to support workers’ rights.
Diving deeper into the health field, Anahi volunteered with the Summer Urban Health Leadership Academy, where she watched and learned from the medical team. One lesson was around the ubiquitous health issues of San Francisco’s homeless population. Anahi even shadowed a midwife and a registered nurse – both coming to light as possible career paths. Anahi’s ultimate career goal is to help parents raise healthy children.
The genesis of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was to create a level playing field so that all students have a chance for post-secondary education. When Anahi wrote an essay for her scholarship application, she explained how she had experienced bullying, racism … and a dearth of opportunities. “Receiving a degree will open doors for me and my family,” she wrote.
Anahi’s award from the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship will ensure there is no financial issue with making her career a reality – a career driven by empathy for patients as they receive the health care they deserve.
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About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.