AUSTIN, Texas — This Hispanic Heritage Month, KVUE is introducing you to some inspiring people and local change-makers in our community.
One El Salvador immigrant who now lives in Austin knows a great deal about persistence and determination.
"This place is just amazing," Yessica Marroquin said. "Here at Todos Juntos, I found the guidance that I was lacking."
When she was 16, Marroquin immigrated from El Salvador. She had big dreams of coming to America and going to school – but when she arrived in Austin, the reality of not knowing English hit.
Marroquin eventually had a daughter, and both needed services to help them within the community. Todos Juntos Learning Center provided the help they needed.
"[Marroquin] needed English services but, mostly, she needed services for her little one who was in speech therapy and whose therapist told her could really benefit from being in a classroom," said Christina Collazo, executive director of Todos Juntos.
Marroquin connected with Collazo after finding a flyer promoting the local nonprofit Todos Juntos. The organization is a free, dual-generation learning center for parents and children that has been serving the Austin community for the last 14 years.
KVUE visited Todos Juntos during fall registration, where parents sign up for English classes taught by Austin Community College instructors. Families also have the opportunity to enroll in citizenship and technology classes and learn about stress management.
Todos Juntos was a perfect fit for Marroquin. She felt comfort knowing that while she was becoming fluent in English, her daughter was down the hall learning as well in the organization's "escuelita," or small school.
"Yessica started as a student and a parent. She became a volunteer after that. She then became a board member and last year led our parent vaccine ambassadors in our effort to get out COVID, fact-based information to our community," Collazo said.
After her time at Todos Juntos, Marroquin transitioned into college, where she received an associate's degree last fall at ACC in paralegal studies and was the recipient of the Chancellors Student Achievement Award.
"I think education is the key for success – when people like us, we don't come from money," Marroquin said. "For me, education for me has opened many, many doors."
Now a paralegal, Marroquin aspires to transfer to the University of Texas at Austin to finish her degree and to continue advocating for the Hispanic community.
She advises to not put up barriers for a dream you may have: if you have a dream, make a plan. It took Marroquin 10 years to get where she is, but she found a support system like Todos Juntos to allow her to continue her dreams.
"Be persistent. Keep going, keep going, keep swimming like Dory," Marroquin said. "And yeah, it will get if you want that, you will get it. But you have to work for it."
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