“My father once told me, “Mija, tienes que estudiar muscho en escuel porque no quiere trabaja mucho como yo en el futuro.” Which means, “My daughter, you must study in school because you don’t want to work hard in the future like me.”

I look up to my dad for everything he’s done for me, my sisters and our mom.

He never left our side and that’s something for which I am grateful because most of my friends either don’t have a father in their lives or they have a father who wants little or nothing to do with them.

I live to make my father proud of me. My goal is to become a pediatrician and as I have told him, “I’m going to make it to UCLA, pa. And it’s all going to be for you.”

For all 16 years of my life, my dad kept a roof over our heads and never hesitated to give his daughters whatever we needed, whether it was Barbies, books and supplies, or make-up.

And it’s never been easy.

My dad has worked two jobs for the past 20 years. He leaves home at 4 a.m. to work in a UCLA cafeteria and when his shift ends at 2 p.m., he drives five miles to the Lowe’s Santa Monica Hotel where he works as a pastry chef. He usually returns home around 11:20.

It’s painful to witness his struggle. It especially hurts because when he and his sisters left El Salvador and crossed the border, he was 16 and was unable to complete his high school education. In America, he immediately went to work as a waiter.

He always tells me not to worry about him and his work and to know that we, his daughters and his wife, are his blessings.

He has taught me to be kind to others and to find the good in people. And I like to think those words have shaped me into a generous and optimistic young woman who takes her friendships seriously and spreads a bit of cheer every day.

My father is always there, encouraging me, motivating me, showing me what it means to be a good parent. And I, in turn, feel a familial obligation to do well in school, to gain knowledge and wisdom and lead a life that will make my father proud.

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