Emely Herrera

Emely H portrait

I moved here from El Salvador when I was nine years old. I didn’t speak English and neither did my mother and father. It was very tough. And lonely. Friends didn’t want me in their groups because I didn’t speak English like they did. I did my homework by myself. Because Spanish was my first language and I wanted something familiar, I didn’t try to learn English.

But then I got bullied by some kids at school. They made fun of me for not being able to speak like them. So I told myself, ‘it’s time to learn.’ I’m someone who is very determined. When I decide to do something, I work at it until I succeed. I stayed after school every day for the next three years – working at my English – because that’s how long it took.

I joined Tenacity in 6th grade. They really helped. They worked after school with me, helping with English and practicing writing and reading. I had to write in a journal every day. My English skills just got better and better by practicing. When I started feeling comfortable with the language, I found out how much I love English, and then how much I love science . . . especially science.

My course load is challenging. I’m in AP English Literature, AP Biology, AP Calculus and Honors Chemistry. All that hard work has paid off, though. I was selected for the National Honor Society and as an MGH Youth Scholar at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Looking back on it now, the ironic thing was that when I got to high school, the same girl who bullied me in 4th grade was in my freshman English class. And now I am the only one who is in AP English. I can laugh because she is my friend now, no hard feelings, and she was the impetus for me to learn my new language.

Tenacity has been there with me every step of the way. Sarah has always been there for me. She’s not just my mentor, she is also my friend. I can talk to her about personal problems and she always gives me good advice. It makes my parents feel good to know that she is there for me and that she can help me in ways that they can’t. The college application process was very hard. Sarah and Ellen stayed on top of me. They even took me to visit colleges. Ellen would stay after school and help me with college applications; she makes time for me even though she has many other seniors to speak with.

We came here because my parents wanted a better life for themselves and their children. You know how you hear about the American Dream. Well, my dream is to go to college and be successful. I want to be a pediatric nurse because I love kids. But my biggest dream is I want to be someone who is going to make my parents proud.