Milagros Lara is the oldest child in a family of seven, and, as she describes it, she has “to be a good role model” for her four siblings: two girls and two boys. At 17 years of age, Milagros knows what is like to have a lifestyle of interrupted schooling, cultural differences and language barriers, —her parents are two Mexican migrant workers that are used to move when the harvest season arrives.
“They came to the United Stated for a better life. They were migrant workers when they were younger, picking apples, squash, pumpkin, broccoli and other vegetables. As time went by, my dad wasn’t getting jobs anywhere and we were running late on paying the bills,” Milagros mentions.
That was the turning point for her to start working in fields. “I was in the 6th grade, and it wasn’t a decision my parents made, it was one we, the kids, made. My parents knew that working up north was going to be hard and they didn’t want to force it on us. They asked what we wanted to do. We didn’t want our parents to worry about paying bills, so we all agreed to join them in the field.”
Having her parents working up north wasn’t easy. “One of the challenges that I had the most trouble with was not finishing the whole school year, getting out early, and moving to a new school. The bad part of all this was adjusting to a new school. In some places the schools were more advanced. I either had to get the hang of what they were teaching or flunk the grade.”
Due to all of this, she failed the 2nd grade. “The only way to overcome this obstacle was by working hard and staying after school for tutoring. It wasn’t easy, my parents helped me when they could, but I managed. My grades went up and once it was time for me to move again, I knew what to do to catch up.”
Despite all, Milagros has succeeded in her school work and doesn’t have any difficulties with moving or adjusting to a new school anymore. “I’ve learned to work hard, be flexible, and to study over and over again.”
Milagros dreams of becoming a nurse and, eventually, a doctor. Her advice to overcome obsticles? “If you want something don’t hesitate, go after it. Your life may not be the prettiest but that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to give up. There are people out there that have had worse and still worked hard to get what they wanted. Go after your dreams, work hard in school, graduate, and, in no time you’ll get there.”
Today, she is one of the 20 recipients for the Close-Up Program in in Washington D.C., that this summer will experience, first hand, the representational form of government, learn about the city’s history, monuments and achievements.