Glenda Mendez and Her Inspiring Resiliance
There were 15 of them and one out those 15 was Glenda Mendez. A 19 year old englih learner senior at SRHS who is apart of link crew. Glenda is fluent in Spanish and Ma’m. She is also succesfully learning english at a very high pace. A part of link crew here at SRHS, includes going into freshman advisories and doing activities. Glenda being part of the actual Link Crew class always has her perfectly organized for her to recite the instruction. She alwasy the most prepared and eager to be with a teach the freshman, but I am still the one who ends up reading that script.
Finally after about 3 visits as much as I felt bad putting her in this situation I knew it had to happen for Glenda to realize the true potential she has. I discretly hinted to her that I was not going to instruct the freshman today indicating that it was her turn. She gave me a frightened look but I quikly looked away before I gave in.
As she began to read her neat script, three kids in the classroom began to giggle at her thick beautiful accent. As much as I wanted to grab them by the ears, take them outside, and teach them a haunting lesson as my dad would when I’d misbehave during mass as a child, I simply shot out a fearsome stare until all three turned red and embarassly looked down at their shoes.
Anyways, back to Glenda, her voice grew stronger and stronger as she kept reading the diresctions and explained the point of the activity. When she was finished she let out a huge sigh and nervosly asked me if she had done okay. I told her she did great and we began working with the freshman.
After the activity was over and we were on our way back to our classrooms, Glenda met up with her friend Jasmine Tobar. Jasmine asked if she had finally read out loud this time and Glenda was now able to say yes. Jasmine was surprised and extremely happy for her. Glenda said that she felt like she did very well, Jasmine congratulated her and they both went on giggling about their day.
This is was the moment in which I realized that Glenda Mendez was not like other link crew memebers that just aply in order to add more to their college apps. She is the first one there every advisory and always has her script ready because she cares about getting things done in the most productive and influential way with her freshman. She challeneges herself every time by trying out short conversations with students who don’t speak spanish.
She is there to not only make a change within the SRHS community but to make a change within herself too. She pushes herself to be better so that she’ll be able to make a change. What she doesn’t realize is how much of a powerful role model she already is to many of the newcommers and kids like me here at SRHS.
She set out alone with one other girl, the rest being older men. She was 16 years old the day she set out to cross the U.S’s Southern border. Glenda left her sister, 2 brothers, and both parents back in Guatemala but still keeps them in her heart every day. Everything she works tirelessly for, is for them. She hopes to be her siblings’ example that there is hope for people like them. For people stuck in a violent and poverty stricken country.
She explains that the government gives no resources to the types of towns in which she grew up in. Glenda didn’t want to end up like her cousins, who work hard in order to make it to school just to graduate and end up with no opportunity for a job or career.
Glenda is from a small pueblo called San Juan Ostuncalco in Guatemala. She did not speak English and knew very little Spanish upon arriving to the United States. Glenda’s first language was the dialect Ma’m, an ancient Mayan language that is spoken by about 500,000 other Guatemalans. The culturally rich indigenous populations in Latin America have always been deprived of their basic human rights and resources that are necessary to live. In Guatemala especially from 1960 to 1996, 200,000 Mayan people were systematically terminated by the Guatemalan military.
Glenda knows nothing about the Mayan genocide in Guatemala because the schools do not teach it and her parents never speak about it.
As she began to tell the story of her journey I noticed her little nervous smile. Glenda is shy, she is very quiet and speaks softly. When you look into her pitch black eyes you can feel the struggle she goes through day by day without her family. When looking into those eyes you can feel how exhausted she is from studying in order to graduate while at the same time working at a gas station, before and after school. But you can also see her strong and prideful demeanor as described by on of her teachers Ms. Padayachee. Glenda is said to have an “innate power” in her soul and have a unbreakable internal strength that had gotten her to where she is now.
It took Glenda 4 months to reach the U.S beginning with the life threatening travel through Mexico. They walked and hid in Buses in order to travel North. In the midst of the journey through the Southern part of Mexico she was deprecated from the only other female in the group, Glenda was now the only one.
It took her a week to reach the “Rio Bravo” or the furious river, known to U.S citizens as the Rio Grande. Due to the drug wars in Mexico, the infamous cartel Los Zetas and the federal police of Tamaulipas (a Mexican state) were in the midst of heavy brauls. Glenda and the other men had to stay in a small house for 15 days until things settled.
Glenda’s strength is greatly seen as she goes on with her story. She was the only female in that house. Glenda and the others were also stuck with no food or water. Alone, hungry, and a indescribable level of fear is what she felt through those 15 days. Yet she said that she would go through it all again so that her family members, especially her 16 year old sister would never have to go through it.
After those terrible 15 days, when the cartels and police were in agreement, her and the other men attempted to cross the Rio Bravo. It took Glenda 4 tries until she finally made it on the 5th try. Immigrants call it the Rio Bravo because of its ferocious current and the level of difficulty it can reach to be able to cross it.
Glenda was finally on the other side, but the journey through hell was not over. They walked for 2 days and 1 night in the desert until they were caught by U.S immigration officers. At this part of the story Glenda’s nervous little smile turned into what I saw as a worried and anxious expression. She almost seemed saddened and ashamed. Glenda began to describe how the officers treated her.
They began by simply and carelessly telling her to go back to wherever she came from “before something worse happens”. She didn’t understand so they proceeded to make her take off her shoes and then disposed of all her belongings in the middle of the desert. They put her in handcuffs and kept her in a car called “la hielera” or “the cooler” for the entire night. Then that morning they threw her in what seemed like a jail cell for 8 hours, they call this place “la perrera” (a place where they keep dogs).
After those humiliating 8 hours she was transferred from one home to another all around Texas for 3 months until they were finished investigating who she was. Finally after 3 months she was sent to Marin where she stayed and continues to stay with her very supportive uncle and aunt.
Many teachers and myself consider Glenda to be a resilient and powerful young woman who is extremely compassionate for others. Everything she goes/went through is worth it for her because she is helping her family and fulfilling her American Dream.
Many students here at SRHS that come from Central America (Guatemala especially) don’t know spanish or english. They feel ashamed of their native tongue but Glenda is a role model for all these students. She wears her culture, speaks it, and defends it with all her heart because that makes up who she is. With this pride she works harder than anyone I know to reach her goals. Glenda is currently working on getting the sufficient credits to graduate high school, which she is on track for. Her next step is to further her education, and go to a university. From there she will become a nurse.