My name is Arlenne Serna, and I am a recent graduate from KIPP University Prep. This August, I will begin my college career to pursue my activism career, while focusing on education and international studies.
Even though, right now, at this moment, I am sure of my goals and aspirations, there was a time when I was faced with doubtfulness and confusion. After my father’s deportation I was forced to be raised in a single parent household. During this time, I spent my busy days taking care of my younger sister, my education, and myself. But during the summer and other school vacations I would travel to Mexico to visit my father. After a few years of this routine, I began to notice how diabetes was taking over my father’s life. He could not move nor stand up, and most of his time he spent it sleeping and laying down. I took the initiative to convince my mother to let me stay with him for a while, but as a 13 year old, I did not know how to care for a sick 46 year old. He became sicker and sicker every day, and my work was not helping him much. And after a few months of missing school, I decided that before taking care of him, I had to take care of myself. After leaving my uncle to care for him, I traveled back to San Antonio where I started my 8th grade year, mid December.
After a few days of beginning this high school year, I received the news that my father had passed away during a check up to the hospital. And even though I was sad at that moment, I had the understanding that this was just my father’s and God’s way of letting me continue my life at peace, without remorse of leaving him, my father, behind in Mexico.
As a freshman in high school, I did not know much about what was going on beyond of the freshman halls. I did know what clubs existed, and I did not understand what AP meant. It wasn’t until my principal came up to me and told me that I had received one of the highest ACT scores in my grade level that I realized how much more there was to high school. Somewhere in me, I had the passion for education, because without realizing it, I was pushing myself to do great things, like obtaining the highest ACT score. After that conversation with my principal, I went and asked for a yearbook. After receiving it, I went through every single page, all while boxing and circling the prestigious clubs around school. I was talented and I couldn’t let my unfamiliarity with high school get in the way of what are now my goals and aspirations.
The next year, I joined most of the community service clubs, and signed up for anything that I was able to fit into my schedule: from soccer to chess club, and from mathletes to dancing. It took me a few days to realize that I was certainly not good at any activities that involved me using my feet or hands, so I decided to focus my efforts on providing my service to the school and my community. The one moment that I believe changed my whole life route was being elected president of my school’s Interact Rotary Club. Here, I learned the importance of working together as a team, and that being president does not mean being a leader; rather it means understanding every single member, and helping them achieve their independent goals, which would ultimately assure the success of the club.
Finally, after 3 years of sleep deprivation, I was finally a senior. I had accomplished what no one else in my family had done, but my job was not over yet. If I could sum up my senior year, I would say it was full of public speaking, and managing Google calendar. Because of my involvement with my school’s board and friends, I was able to meet many incredible people around San Antonio who introduced me to exciting opportunities around the city. I was able to meet MOVE San Antonio, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that is focused on giving our youth a voice in politics. Here I was able to organize rallies, deputize myself to be able to register people, vote for the first time ever, speak in front of our state representatives, and above all see and feel the importance of civic engagement.
Now that I have graduated high school, I will go on to learn more about what is happening outside of this great city of San Antonio. I will be moving to Boston where I hope to have a similar experience, filled with activism and learning. Hopefully, after I am done, I can come back and implement the rules, regulations, and ways of other great major cities here in my hometown. Maybe even one day—hopefully—run for office!