It is our honor to announce Pedro Gamino, gender pronouns he/him/his, as the recipient of our 2020 Inspire Award.
The Central Valley Scholars Inspire Award, which was created in light of Pedro’s story, recognizes extraordinary students who find the will to continue their education despite various hardships and obstacles. This award comes with a cash prize of $2,000 and continuous themtorship and support from the Central Valley team.
Central Valley Scholars hopes to continue providing future support for students like Pedro, both monetarily and resourcefully. We recognize that students like Pedro are often rejected by other scholarship organizations, not because they lack potential, but simply due to biases they carry against formerly incarcerated people.
At Central Valley Scholars we look past an individual’s academic or “criminal” history. Instead, we focus solely on a student’s potential to succeed, because we recognize that the hardships which an individual may face during their educational journey can appear an insurmountable hurdle that inevitably interferes with academic performance. Pedro’s story is a stellar example of a student with endless potential who, with the appropriate resources and support, can and will overcome the obstacles life has thrown his way.
Pedro first found out he was undocumented at the age of thirteen, when a friend offered him a job which required that he provide his social security number. When Pedro asked his mother for the number, she explained that he did not have one because he had immigrated to the United States at the age of four.
Amongst Pedro’s newfound knowledge was that his mother was a victim of domestic violence, and that his father was an alcoholic who constantly threatened to harm his mother. He discovered that the reason he and his mother immigrated was to escape the abuse she was experiencing, in hopes of a better life in the United States.
At first, Pedro didn’t understand the implications of his immigration status. But soon enough, Pedro felt a sense of loss and dread for his future; he knew his chances of obtaining the job of his dreams were ruined. Rather than deal with these emotions, he ignored his feelings.
In his freshman year of high school, his undocumented status came up in a way he couldn’t ignore. Most of his friends were working, and he relied on his mother to provide money so that he could buy lunch at school. Eventually, he felt guilty for depending on his mother, and resorted to selling drugs.
During his sophomore year of high school, Pedro’s experiences with drugs escalated to a point in which he used them to numb his emotional distress. Namely, Pedro began consuming drugs after his older brother was killed by gun violence. As a result, Pedro stopped going to school, his grades declined, and was so far behind academically that was sent to a continuation school.
Pedro’s mom attempted to encourage him to continue his education. She told him she has seen kids on the news graduating as dreamers, and he could be one of these kids. But Pedro believed that, “Kids like me are not the ones that get lucky.”
Pedro never felt confident in school, and his grades reflected this. In addition, he had a few run-ins with the law, so he felt there was little hope for him to obtain his residency. His experiences with selling drugs eventually dug him into a hole which got him kicked out of school again.
As a result, Pedro began to work in the fields, a job he hated as it was “hard and tiring work.” The money he earned was used to purchase and sell drugs. By the end of the summer, he quit the job in the fields and went back to school. But again, his focus strayed from academics, and narrowed in on selling drugs–which led to Pedro’s expulsion again. He tried enrolling in another high school, but was placed under independent studies.
By this point, Pedro had become more hopeless and entrenched in criminal activity, eventually being detained and placed in juvenile hall. “This allowed me the opportunity to get sober,” Pedro states, “which also led me to think about my actions and their consequences.”
Pedro was afterwards placed in a group home so that he can receive treatment. Initially, he was resistant to the help, and doubted whether it could actually work. But as time progressed, he became more invested in the treatment and started to work through his hardships.
“The group home provides structure, accountability, and a variety of mental health services,” Pedro said. “I have learned pro-social skills, appropriate expressions of thoughts and feelings, and have learned about core issues that have influenced my choices. For the first time in my life, I feel hopeful about my future, and can envision having a life that does not involve crime.”
Along with the $2,000, Pedro received an award plague, celebratory check, and gift basket with some of his favorite goodies!
Until recently, Pedro never truly thought he could dream of a future that didn’t involve drugs or crime. His placement in a group home gave him the opportunity to receive services that have impacted not only the way he behaves, but also the way he thinks and feels. The experience gave Pedro hope in becoming a United States citizen, attending college, and obtaining a degree in business. Eventually, he would like to have his own business, a family, a car, and a dog. He plans to achieve this by putting in the necessary work to be successful, despite having to overcome the challenge of being undocumented.
“Growing up, I have not made good choices, but now I realize that I am resilient,” said Pedro. “I want to be a positive role model for others, and help kids who, like myself, feel hopeless because of their immigration status. I am truly grateful for organizations like Central Valley Scholars that give kids like me hope!”
Watch Pedro's reaction to winning the award below.
Want to sponsor next year's Inspire Award and support more students like Pedro? Contact Us.