Home > Blog > Reflections: In gratitude for all that you do

Blog

Knowledge is a Key to Freedom

June 27, 2022

Sheyla Rodriguez will enter Yale University this fall. She has a bright future, but it took a long journey for her to arrive at this point.

She and her family left Cuba when she was eleven and within days stood at the border between Mexico and the United States. They left a repressive dictatorship to live in a nation where freedom and opportunity are available to all people. She is now a permanent U.S. resident and is graduating from Chula Vista High School in California with a 4.6 grade point average.

Always studious, Sheyla made excellent grades, but felt cut off from the world during the COVID lockdown. Despite living with loving and supportive parents, she could not spend time with classmates in person or have extended conversations with teachers. Gradually she slipped into depression, her classes felt like a burden, her self-image suffered and she lost her passion for the future.

Then she learned about Upward Bound. This program, offered through the U.S. Department of Education and administrated by Lutheran Social Services of Southern California, helps students develop the skills and motivation to complete high school and succeed in postsecondary studies. At least two-thirds of the participants are first generation college students from low-income families.

Sheyla said Upward Bound helped her in three ways:

  1. The instructors in the required college-level courses she took during summers inspired her with their passion for learning;
  2. Her new friends in the program felt like an extended family; and
  3. Upward Bound strengthened her with a hope for her future.

Her parents work in a local hotel, her dad as a house man and her mom as a housekeeper. They have loved and supported their daughter in every conceivable way. Her father’s mantra has always been, “Knowledge is a key to freedom.” Graduation day at Chula Vista High School will be a celebration for the entire Rodriguez family. Sheyla is the valedictorian of her class!

Lutheran Social Services of Southern California is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a national network of 300 Lutheran health and human services organizations that reaches one in 50 people in America each year.

Learn more about Lutheran Social Services of Southern California.