Wendy came to Redwood Continuation High School as a junior in March 2013 because the conditions of her probation mandated it. She had dropped out of high school in her sophomore year. When I first met Wendy she was not yet committed to herself or her education, however, under the guidance of Prometheus’s Safe Place Program and enrolling in a small Academy program at Redwood called Redwood Environmental Academy of Leadership (REAL) she slowly and then with much ambition began to turn her life around. She was voted most improved student at Redwood and gave a speech at graduation.
Like all of our students, Wendy had a very challenging upbringing, when she came to us she was homeless as a result of her father’s alcoholism and she was estranged from her mother. As Wendy began to attend school regularly and receive counseling in the Safe Place she was reunited and moved into her mother’s house. For the first time since she was 12 years old she had a safe place to live and she began to heal, focus on her studies and to recover her own self-care and respect. Every week Wendy grew in maturity, and in her desire to learn and use her brilliant mind. Her education became her number one priority. Wendy even began to believe in herself enough to dream about going to college. Wendy’s mother speaks very little English and is a single woman, working very hard at two jobs just to provide for their basic needs. Wendy never believed that she could afford to go to college. However once she started believing in her dream she got a job and began to save up money on her own for college. We helped her get a financial aid package and this scholarship; there is no one more in need, or more deserving of this support than Wendy Castaneda. Wendy is the first generation in her family to graduate high school and now to go to college. This is the essay she wrote for the scholarship.