'I am a survivor'

Alhambra Source and real estate developers Sam and Jackie Wong organized a scholarship in May that asked college and high school students from Alhambra to answer questions about their name, heritage, and growing up a child of immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley. The selected essays will be published once a week. The piece below is written by East Los Angeles College student Jessica Ramos. The 18 year old won fourth place for her essay about overcoming domestic violence. Read Ramos' essay below and check out the other winning essays we've published so far.

Being an American born to Mexican American parents, I have learned to adapt to both ethnic backgrounds. I learned by observing, absorbing, and appreciating the diverse ethnicity that my parents’ culture provided for me. As I was growing up, my mother taught me many valuable lessons, but mostly to stand up for what I believed was right and never allow anyone to belittle me.  She said, “You should be proud to be an American and never forget where you came from.”

My ethnic background was very important to me. I learned positive things about my culture at a very young age. Unfortunately, I was also exposed to the negative aspects of my ancestors’ beliefs, which I could not comprehend as a child. One of these was the importance of survival skills. I would like to share my story with you, so you can understand why I am an advocate for victims who have suffered and are suffering.

Jessica Ramos reading her essay at the Sam & Jackie Wong-Alhambra Source Scholarship Ceremony.

Imagine being abruptly awakened during the middle of the night by someone banging on the front door, yelling, screaming, and breaking windows. This was normal to me. My father would come home drunk, argue with my mother and physically abuse her. At the age of 6, I had no idea what I was experiencing had a name: domestic violence.

My grandmother shared stories with me about her own childhood. “Women used to submit to this violent abuse, and it was acceptable by the culture,” she said. It was a topic that people did not talk about, yet it was an issue that needed to be addressed.

Jessica Ramos (center) with her brother Michael and mother Terry

It took courage for my mother to leave that devastating situation. Fearing for her life and the lives of her two children, she realized that she had to leave. She opposed old customs that said a woman stood in these circumstances so as not to shame the family name or secure financial status. My mother refused to become another domestic violence statistic and wanted to break that horrible violent cycle.

I live in a diverse community and your ethnicity or beliefs do not matter, what really matters is that you not allow anyone to demean or harm you in any way. Society has now put laws into place to protect victims of domestic violence and no one should ever have to suffer because of a lack of protection.

The Ramos family at one of Michael's football games.

My family and my community have instilled in me a deep commitment to making the world a better place.  My goal is to help the next generation live a healthy and safe life. We need to take back our schools and educate our children to live a healthy lifestyle without violence not only at home, but also at school. I am living proof that it can be done.

My personal agenda is to serve and protect people from all walks of life.  I have been giving back to my community by volunteering for the Monterey Park Police Department Explorer Program, mentoring students, feeding the homeless, and working at the Boys and Girls Club. My ultimate goal is to start a non-profit organization called L.O.V.E. by R.A.M.O.S., or Let’s Overcome Violence by Reaching All Members of Society, an acronym based on my last name.

There was never a question in my mind about furthering my education. College was never an option, it was a must. I am now majoring in Administration of Justice to pursue my dreams of being a crime scene investigator.  What I have learned from the past has empowered me to strive to achieve my educational goals, expand my potential, and pursue my aspirations for a better future.

Jessica Ramos in 2013.

Today, my reality is fearless, full of optimism and triumph. I can look back at that scared little girl, wipe the tears from her face, and give her reassurance that everything will be okay. What she has gone through has made her stronger and she is ready for the journey that she once believed would never exist. I truly believe that what I learned at a young age was not to allow the past to ruin my future by following others and doing as our culture would like for us to do. I learned that the past did not always show best methods to follow and that if something was not good or positive, then I had to do something about it.

I am a self-motivated, proud Latina who will continue to overcome the obstacles and challenges that lie ahead of me. In the adversity that I will face, I am optimistic that I will arrive at my life’s destination, because I am a survivor.

Essay was lightly edited and condensed. 

Read the other winning essays: 

"Stages of shame: A young Chinese American's story" by Shannon Ho

"From rebellion to respect" by Yvonne Lee

"Latina, Chicana, mestizo: The labels that define us" by Vanessa Solis

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