At the age of 9, Kimberly’s life took a drastic turn when her parents, who were undocumented immigrants living in the United States, decided to move their family back to Mexico.
Life was hard in their small village. Kimberly’s parents were farmworkers who struggled to make ends meet. Adding to this financial burden, Kimberly and her father were also diagnosed with type II diabetes and asthma.
“When we needed to go to the doctor, it meant waking up at 4:00am to get in line at the local clinic,” recalls Kimberly.
If they were turned away or couldn’t afford to pay for their medication, they would rely on herbal medicine instead.
As time passed, things didn’t get easier. While Kimberly was smart, hardworking, and excelled in school, her parents had fears about her future. After all, opportunities were limited in their village. And many students in Kimberly’s financial situation dropped out of school to find jobs to help their family rather than continue with their education.
Eventually, Kimberly’s parents were forced to make a difficult decision once again. But this time, it would give their daughter a chance at a better future.
When Kimberly turned 15, she said goodbye to her family and life in Mexico to go live with her aunt and uncle in the United States. She was determined to make the most of her new life and make the most of every opportunity that came her way.
In 2017, Kimberly began her sophomore year at East College Prep High School in Lincoln Heights. That’s when she discovered PUENTE—and everything changed.
“This program was there for me at a point in my life when I needed it the most,” says Kimberly. “It opened the door to opportunities that changed the course of my life.”
Incredibly, she joined the first cohort of PUENTE’s College and Career Program—and went on to attend UCLA.
“Through PUENTE’s career exploration workshops, I had the opportunity to shadow family doctors at Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital,” she says. “That led to me meeting Dr. Acosta, who became my mentor. Together with PUENTE, she gave me the confidence to pursue a career in medicine.”
Today, Kimberly’s future is bright. She’s a senior at UCLA studying Human Biology and Society with plans to apply to medical school in 2023. She’s actively involved in extracurriculars on campus as an Editor at the Society and Genetics Research Journal Club of UCLA. She has published articles focused on public health, including COVID-19. She’s also a Medical Assistant, Translator, and Medical Scribe for the UCLA Flying Samaritans.
Last summer, Kimberly studied abroad in Paris where she took an internship helping connect foster youth to medical resources through the development of an app.
Six years later, PUENTE continues to support Kimberly through our College Success services. She regularly checks in with her case manager, attends group workshops, and even “pays it forward” by mentoring first-generation college freshmen.
Reflecting on her childhood as her family struggled to access adequate health care, she says, “Those early experiences shaped me in more ways than I could’ve imagined. It opened my eyes to the inequities in health care, and it inspired me to help be part of the solution.”
Remarkably, Kimberly is just one of thousands of youths born to immigrant parents whose lives have been forever changed through PUENTE Learning Center.