Four Feisty Females Beat the Odds, Look to College
MINNEAPOLIS – The Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota tonight is honoring four young women who have overcome extreme adversity to pursue their dreams.
The winners of the Beat the Odds awards are all high school seniors who, despite challenges, have done well in school and are planning to attend college.
Among them is Salina Samaniego, who grew up with a father who was mentally ill, addicted and abusive. She shuffled between relatives, foster homes and shelters.
"I really just kept going,” she says, “and used everything that happened to me and turned it into strength to keep me going and just thinking back at the life I had pushed me even more to want to graduate and live my dream career and live the life I know I deserve."
Samaniego is set to graduate from Humboldt Senior High School in St. Paul. She has dreams of becoming a doctor. She and the other winners will each receive a $4,000 scholarship.
Tonight's ceremonies are on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Another of this year's winners is Maria Cruz Mendiola of Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. She may also pursue a career in the medical field.
Mendiola has lived in cardboard boxes and pulled food from trashcans to survive, and even now with all her other activities, she works more than 20 hours a week.
"Right now I have to work to take care of my family and work at school to graduate on time and go to a good university and pursue my dream," she says.
For those children who are in similar situations right now, both Mendiola and Samaniego have the same advice: follow your dreams.
“Never give up,” Mendiola says. “There will be opportunities in the future.”
“Anything and anyone that tries to get in your way, never let that bring you down,” Samaniego adds. “You fight ‘til the end because all your hard work will pay off."
This year's other winners are Dorothy O'Berry of Como Park Senior High School in St. Paul and Rachel Flores of Roosevelt.