As his final assignment for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) American Literature class at Campbell High School, Sergio Palma detailed his story of how he overcomes obstacles to achieve his dream and graduate from high school and help his family. Although Sergio’s time at Campbell has ended, his school family has not ended their support. They are working to connect the Class of 2020 graduate with someone in the auto mechanics field so he can pursue training, and Sergio is also committed to continuing his private English lessons with his teacher, at no cost.
You may want to grab a box of tissues before reading Sergio’s personal narrative.
A Boy Fighting for his Family and his Dreams
In 2001 I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and I lived here until 2008 with my parents and my sisters, Michelle, now 16, and Alisson, 14. As long as I can remember I thought I had a beautiful life because I didn’t understand what violence between parents and children was. Every mistake my father would hit me and my mom, but she would tell me, “My son I am here with you and I stopped crying.
When I was seven years old, and my sisters were four and two, my dad was put in prison. He told us to go to Mexico, so we left the United States and moved to a rural area near the town of San Marcos, about an hour’s drive from Acapulco. We were without a father for four years because he was in jail, and my mom could not pay the house expenses, so when I was nine years old, I went to work as a farmer, and they paid me 150 pesos, about six dollars per day. My mom told me, “You are my hope, that’s why I love you.” We were poor the whole time I was in Mexico. I always wanted toys and clothes, but we could not afford to buy anything new. My mom and I bought used, sometimes torn, clothes for my sisters because they were small. We were quite happy although we were so poor. My mom educated us and gave us good principles, so I learned to be a good young man.
During those four years, I really wanted to see my dad, and when he arrived. I thought he had changed, but no. It got worse. As a taxi driver, he worked for his beers and didn’t give my mom anything for food. He saved money for himself, but my mom and I paid for everything. She walked every day throughout the town selling her delicious tamales. My dad tells other people that he pays for the expenses, but he doesn’t.
Years went by and my baby sister Alisson got sick. Her disease is called lupus. I decided to stop working as a peasant farmer because there was not enough money to pay for my sister’s medicines, and my uncle saw that I wanted a job. He said he could give me a job as a mechanic. In the beginning I didn’t want to, but with time I learned to like mechanics, and my dream later was to be an automotive engineer. I was able to earn 1500 pesos a week ($63), and it paid for my sister’s medicine. I started looking for work in the United States, hoping also for the opportunity to study in school.
I moved to Smyrna, Georgia in 2018 without my family and began to live with an uncle. I became a student at Campbell High School. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to learn English, but I promised myself and my family that I would give my best to be someone in life. My first job in the United States is at McDonald’s. Living here is another world because there are so many things and buildings and I could dress well. I was eating better than before. When I got my first paycheck and I saw that it was a lot of money, I sent it all to my mom. She was happy and crying that I am her only hope.
Well, a few months later, December arrived and on Christmas day, I was eating with my relatives when my sister Michelle called me on the phone to tell me what had happened. My sister Alisson was playing with small fireworks and she looked happy. My mom went to wash her hair and she noticed that my sister was convulsing on the floor. My mom didn’t know what to do. She thought that my sister had died. My dad acted quickly and picked her up off the ground. They left for Acapulco because we live in a town where there is no advanced medical care. I started to cry and I didn’t want to live anymore, but I became strong because I had faith in God that she wasn’t going to die.
Two days later, my mom called me and told me everything that happened. The doctors did some tests on her head and said that she had a spot of cancer and I couldn’t believe it. I said why was she given this misfortune? We are just some humble and poor people who have no money. After two weeks she was discharged from the hospital. They did other tests, and the doctors said that they could remove the small tumor in her head with medication because it had only grown a little.
However, the medication was very expensive, so I worked 14 hours at work to earn more and the manager understood my situation. I was tired at work, but I imagined my sister being healthy and smiling. This gave me the strength to continue working longer. I would come home and take a bath and fall asleep at 2 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes I was late for class and I fell asleep because I was so tired. I knew it was my duty to study, but my Princess Alisson needed me. She is the reason that I fight in this life. I want her to smile and today I continue to fight for her. Her condition is serious. Sometimes she no longer wants to eat and she is thin, and it breaks my soul to see her like that, but I do not lose hope that someday my sister will recover and I will see her smile. Sometimes I can not do all my studies because I have to work for her so that she can see another sunrise. My dream is that she recovers. I also want to be someone in life, like an automotive engineer, so that my parents and sisters are proud of me.
The message I want to give is that we should never stop fighting and dreaming even if the situation is difficult. I also believe we should ask God to help us.