When Lesby Ruiz came to America to join her mother, she followed in the foot steps of many 13-year-old kids in Stamford: she enrolled in Stamford High School.
Her experience was a difficult one, however. A recent emigrant from Guatemala, Ruiz spoke very little English, something for which she said she was often bullied.
“I didn’t want to go,” she said. “When you don’t know the language, you don’t know how to defend yourself.”
Then, when Ruiz was 17, her grandmother got sick in Guatemala. Ruiz’s mother went back home to help care for the family, but the teenager stayed behind. Then, later that same year, Ruiz’s mother was diagnosed with leukemia. Ruiz, who was already working an after-school job, started to send money to her family in Guatemala.
“I decided to drop out of school, because I had to pay for rent and food,” she said.
Ruiz worked mornings at a Mexican restaurant, evenings at a deli, and weekends at a nearby bakery.
“I was working seven days a week, basically,” she said.
The grueling schedule took its toll, and Ruiz decided that she needed to go back to school.
“It was difficult. When you don’t have an education and you don’t know the language, people make you feel down,” she said.
Using Google and watching television and movies, Ruiz began to teach herself English. She also set a goal for herself — she wanted to become an accountant.
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