Park West High | Mentors: Eric V. & Paul H.
My name is Hector Campos, I grew up in the city of Pomona with my mother and my four brothers. We’ve never really had much and so I grew up appreciating and working with what I did have. My mother was an academic in her youth and therefore encouraged us to do well in our education so we could have opportunities that she was never able to acquire because of her legal status. I was good at school, so good that other kids would tease me. Although I wasn’t socially accepted amongst my classmates and deemed a loner, I was at the top of my class. I don’t care much for acceptance of social circles now, but as a kid, the human urge to be a part of a community and the pain of not being accepted into it was emotionally and mentally damaging me. So in an attempt to try to understand why I wasn’t enough, I began to act out and self medicate my anxieties away.
My decisions led me to the juvenile correctional facilities or “Juvenile Hall” and I came to the realization that I was not only wasting time in there but I was missing out on quality education and creating memories with friends or loved ones, I didn’t know how to take notes or retain information for too long. I knew my brain is a powerhouse and a muscle that gets stronger the more I use it so I read lots of books on my own and drew at least one drawing every day. When I got out of the juvenile hall I learned what it felt like to be so institutionalized that you don’t know what to do with so much free time, I was released the second semester of my high school senior year. I had lost about three years in the system and was still expected to graduate on time, I met with my counselor and she introduced me to Eric Vasquez.
From then Just Us 4 Youth helped me stay accountable of what I did with my time in terms of academics and helped me surround myself with others who were also attempting to steer themselves in a better direction. I didn’t feel alone, although to some degree I still was because this journey is mine alone to embark on but now I knew others were also fighting to grow like roses in concrete from situations they didn’t ask for and were born into. Growing resiliently from systems of oppression set up against them to keep them from having the ability to live peacefully, like not having to worry about how your single mother is going to pay for rent, put food on the table and still find enough courage and grit to stick it through despite all the obstacles in front of her.
Just Us 4 Youth provided a space where I didn’t question my acceptance nor worried about it, a safe haven where I could genuinely be myself and work on growing into my higher self at the same time. I made new friends, I created memories filled with laughter, new experiences and unforgettable bonds; I was introduced to a brighter side of life but also reminded that we as individuals create the bright moments in our lives and being able to share that bright light with those who helped create it is only right. I graduated from Park West High School, a continuation school where at-promise youth made up the whole if not the majority of the campus population, I didn’t have much academic discipline but I walked that stage alone to receive my diploma.
I had become so involved with Just Us 4 Youth that I was offered an opportunity to be part of their intern cohort, I became the creative arts intern where I helped put together art-related activities for block parties we hosted at various neighborhoods that summer, providing the local youth with healthy alternatives of outdoor activities. I spent a year in the workforce after high school but Just Us 4 Youth was able to help connect me with an alumni from Mt. San Antonio college when it came time for me to continue my academic journey. From then I have had the pleasure of being able to experience many things, I found my inner activist within M.E.Ch.A. de Mt. SAC, reestablished my academic discipline, acquired a job on campus where I help students navigate the college campus and I even flew on a plane for the first time to speak on behalf of the college representing a program that I’m a part of. I’m beyond blessed and grateful to have made it to where I am today, and I thank Just Us 4 Youth for providing the community I needed to stay focused on my academic priorities.