Impact Story

Esmeralda Santiago – 2019 Girls Inc. Graduate


Esmeralda was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and came to the United States at the age of two. She soon adopted this country as her own. Growing up she wasn’t aware that her status would be playing such a large role when it came to her education and future prospects. She was raised by her single mother and seeing her mother struggle and work hard to take care of her children made Esmeralda realize that she wanted a stable future for herself and her mother. Esmeralda shares that her mother incorporated the “you can do it!” attitude and mindset that pushed her to pursue non-traditional roles for women in her community. Coming from a conservative background, the women are not encouraged to pursue college, financial independence or make their own choices.

In high school, she decided to break down even more barriers. She joined her high school’s wrestling team and started her own Medical Club. Esmeralda disciplined herself during wrestling season that she made it to the California Interscholastic Federation, although she did not place she pushed herself mentally and physically to push boundaries.  Esmeralda started Girls Inc. her sophomore year and has since flourished into a strong independent woman. She is a first generation DACA(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student and in Fall 2019 will be starting her college journey at California State University San Marcos. Her goal is to go into medical school and become a doctor to help young children with special needs. She has some young cousins with mild to severe forms of developmental conditions and Esmeralda has been part of their journey to function independently with little support. Seeing them perform better and better has sparked her passion to help young lives and educate others to remove labels and stereotypes that limit affected youth.

Hear Esmeralda and other graduate stories – filled with challenges, achievements and plans for the future – at the 2019 Graduation Celebration on May 9: