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Lupe Aguilera spent most of her life making noise so that someone would notice her.
As a child, who grew up in a family of 14 siblings, Lupe was never given the recognition or support she needed to believe in herself. What’s worse is no one believed her when she told them she was being abused in her own household.
“It got to the point where I wanted to just shut myself out. So I got myself into trouble all the time because I felt like my mom wasn’t paying attention to me,” Lupe said. “I thought if I got into trouble maybe she would start paying attention to me.”
When she realized no one was listening, Lupe said she started to act like the housemaid in order to get herself away from her abuser. She would clean up the five bedroom, 3 bathroom home once a week so that she could get permission to leave for as long as she liked.
Lupe went from couch to couch, family to family, group home to shelter, trying to find someone, anyone who would care.
Finally, she found that one person who turned it all around for her, but it wasn’t until much later in her life – after she had already had two children of her own.
“I was in the shelter with my kids and I was still messing up – still coming home late and drunk. I couldn’t get it right. After a while, the workers at the shelter called me in. They were just tired of me, because I couldn’t get my shit together,” Lupe remembers.
They all sat Lupe down at a table and told her that everyone had voted her out, that no one wanted her there anymore, and that they didn’t see anything in her. They told Lupe what she had been convincing them of all along – a truth she had believed herself.
“But there was this one guy there…his name was Jeff and I’m never going to forget him…he told me, ‘I do see something in you and I think you should stay. I think you should work this program like I know you can.’ And ever since he told me that and believed in me, I got my shit together. I think I was just always looking for someone to do that, but I didn’t know that it was what I needed,” she said.
Finding her place in this shelter, helped Lupe to understand that when you fall down, it’s okay to ask for help getting back up.
“When I initially left to join the shelter, I told my parents, who I was living with at the time, that I was going to a hotel, because I knew they would disown me if I told them. They had too much pride and thought they could help me themselves. Plus, me living with them was providing them with more disposable income,” she said.
But once Lupe broke down and told her parents, the opportunities started opening up.
“They were so mad at me,” Lupe said as she started to cry. “I just told them that it’s good for me and good for my kids, and that I’m trying to be something better that I know I can be.”
Shortly after, Lupe earned a spot in transitional housing and started making strides for herself and her family. She started working full time and attending AA and NA meetings.
“I couldn’t believe I was making moves, without having a partner by my side,” Lupe said. “Because Mexican women think that we need a partner to be with us because they are going to be our suppliers for everything and that we gotta depend on them, but it’s not true. We need to know that we can depend on ourselves.”
The outreach that she received through her shelter and those giving back in the community shook Lupe to her core.
“It was so crazy – I never knew there was people out there like that. It made me change my ways,” she said.
Lupe said when she looks back on the years of her life that were spent high, she remembers how desperate she felt and doesn’t want to ever return there.
“I was going crazy. Like I would see things that weren’t even there, or hear things that weren’t even there. I would take so many pills and I would faint,” she said. “I just want to be better. My mom has always been that person who takes advantage of everybody. So I didn’t want to be like my mom, and I still don’t want to be like my mom. I think that’s why I try to do everything I can for my kids now.”
Lupe’s relationship with her children has evolved greatly over the years, and she has finally won custody of her boys from a relationship which caused her much turmoil in her past.
“Going through the custody battle with my kids was so hard because I couldn’t read or write. I was constantly using my phone and talking to it to see how things were spelled to write it down on all that formal paperwork. It was hard,” Lupe said. “I’ve come so far, and I won’t stand for things anymore. I’m not going to be cleaning up after anyone else for the rest of my life.”
Now is the time in Lupe’s life where she is focused on herself and her family. The first step in that journey was her graduation from Highlands Community Charter School on January 25, 2018. She is also an employee at Highlands, working in the clothing closet and providing resources to those of our students in need.
In the future, she hopes to develop a mobile clothing closet for our school, which will make resources more readily available to those who are not on our main campus. And she would also like to return back to college very soon.