When I was 14 years old, the meaning of the word “leader” was unknown to me because I didn’t understand much about life. However, life kept going and I was growing up fast. Much faster than an average teenager would. I learned how to lead and carry the burden of responsibility far sooner than others. I already knew that my single mother didn’t want to live in El Salvador at the time. The country was teetering on the brink of war, and it’s economy seemed quite bleak. Consequently, the education system crumbled and it wasn’t safe for my family and me to live there anymore.

August 2013 was the date when my mother and my baby sister decided to leave El Salvador. I was just 14 years old but was carrying the responsibility of an 18-year-old one. I was pushed into leading my family to safety while protecting them along the way. I had to mature early, and that responsibility weighed heavily on my shoulders. Even though nobody told me to take it, I instinctively felt I have to take care of my mother and my sister, and I had to figure out a way to do so in harsh conditions. Finding solutions to difficult problems is a good trait to have as a leader, and it certainly wasn’t easy to cross four borders with two females. I worried day and night as we crossed the desert on foot. At night I stared at the stars and wondered what would happen the next day? I quickly learned how to handle uncertainty. Another trait of a good leader.

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When we arrived in Mexico, we had to cross the Rio Bravo on an inflatable raft; my eyes did not separate my mother’s and my sister’s eyes. I made sure to protect them and take care of them every moment. When we entered the United States, immigration officers stopped us as undocumented immigrants. As we walked into the immigration office, my throat felt dry and painful because I was afraid of what could happen to us. Fear and sadness seized our feelings because we were afraid of deportation. Tears rolled down my…

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