Leaving their home was a difficult decision for the family of then 12-year-old Karen Guzman, but it needed to happen. This life-changing choice compelled Karen, her sister and their mother to live in a shelter for two months.

Karen quickly became an adult.

The teenager pushed forward, maintaining her optimism despite the daily challenges she encountered.

Things then took a turn for the better when the family moved in with Karen’s aunt. Once baby Emily arrived, Karen was ready to take on responsibility to help her mother raise the newborn.

Karen (photo, right) thrived in freshman year at John O’Connell High School, poised to study hard to prepare herself for a better future.

In her Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship application personal statement, Karen earnestly wrote, “Now I’m 16 and have evolved. I am breaking out of my shell, and let me tell you that metamorphosis feels great. They told me when something tragic happens in your life, that is when you truly blossom because it makes you stronger.”

Karen worked hard to be college eligible. There were after-school activities. Volunteering in the community. Successfully running for senior class vice president.

This all paid off: Karen is heading to Holy Names University in Oakland this fall.

Challenges still persisted, however, as Karen had a gap in the money needed to pay for her postsecondary education — an all-too-common circumstance for habitually underresourced students in the Mission.

“There is a great need for finding sources to pay for college, especially for our first-generation children, like Karen, who are born into Latino immigrant families,” explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Family Success Coach Manager Amelia M. Martínez C (photo, left).

To combat this issue, the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship was created this spring, with $10,000 raised from a concerted community effort. At May’s graduation ceremony, four John O’Connell High School seniors were elated when Martínez called out their names as recipients of these funds.

One of them was Karen Guzman.

This was no surprise to Chef Daniel Scherotter, a teacher for the Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management program, in which Karen participated at John O’Connell High School. In his letter of recommendation, Scherotter wrote, “Karen is one of my favorite students. She regularly comes to see me in her free time to pick my brain and clarify some concept or other.  She makes good decisions.”

A good decision was also made by the Mission Promise Neighborhood Scholarship committee in their choice of Karen Guzman.

Congratulations, Karen!

Donate today to support the college dreams of another Mission Promise Neighborhood student. Any amount helps!


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.


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