From homeless teen to USCD student
Q: What were things like for you before going to the group home?
A: My father got a job in downtown San Diego, and my family moved to Temecula. We moved there since it was the midpoint between San Diego, where my father worked, and San Bernardino, where my mother lived. We commuted to school in downtown San Diego from Temecula with our father until we became homeless and had to move to Toussaint.
Q: How did you become homeless?
A: My father became eerily sick and took me and my sister to hospitals in San Diego and Tijuana. He showed what looked like to me to be strong signs of mental instability. His eyes were wide open, he spoke softly and less frequently, and sometimes he had this expression where it looked like he didn’t know what he was doing. My father went to Mexico for another check up and didn’t come back. Since my sister and I knew we had to continue going to school, and that our mother would not be able to support us on her own, we decided to ask our friends if we could stay at their homes. But after a few months, we realized that we couldn’t depend on our friends any longer, and with the help of a high school staff member, moved into Toussaint.
Q: What was it like to live there?
A: Toussaint had a secure, healthy, warm environment that did everything to meet the basic living needs of the residents. It was definitely strict, but most of the rules were to help keep us safe from the streets and to teach us to become responsible adults. Sometimes there would be activities like going on hikes, going out to eat and even big events, like prom for only the members of Toussaint.
Q: What motivated you to get through high school?
A: My situation as a homeless teen convinced me to work harder than ever so that I could get out of Toussaint, go to a good university, obtain a degree and job, and finally give back to the community that helped me do so. Also, the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) program at San Diego High — School of International Studies, and the kind and great staff there helped me.
Q: What were your life goals before Toussaint? And after?
A: Before Toussaint, I didn’t have any clear life goals except to go to a good college and get a well-paying job. While at Toussaint, I realized I wanted to contribute to the community that truly helped me get through what could have been a severely depressing situation. Now I want to show fellow homeless teenagers that there is hope.
Q: What is a misconception about homeless teens?
A: Homeless teens are often seen as dirty, or living on the streets because they are no good, or unfortunate because their parents did not take care of them well, the list goes on. But what people don’t realize is that many teens fall into these situations not because they caused it, or their parents caused it, but because of unexpected events such as the case when my father went missing in Mexico. It may come out of nowhere, and yet homeless people in general are looked down upon for living on the streets when they have no other place to be. One should never assume something about another’s situation, and as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.
Q: You’re now at UC San Diego. How are you adjusting to college life?
A: Really well, I’m keeping extremely busy. I’m a full-time student, a hired undergraduate tutor for computer science courses, an undergraduate researcher, a badminton club member and more.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I didn’t know anything about computer science or computer engineering before I arrived at UCSD. It was very different from what I imagined, and I am more than happy to have chosen it as my major. This is particularly why I want to reach out to high schools, so I can demonstrate what computer science is truly like both in the academic sense and the industrial sense.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: Playing some badminton (my favorite sport) at the Balboa Park Activity Center, hanging out with my close friends at a mall and going on a movie date with my girlfriend.