A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Leslie Catalan

Editor’s note:  We are so proud of our graduating high school students, who later this year will begin attending colleges and universities.  “A Tale of Two Santa Anas” is our latest blog series, where the seniors tell their personal story in their own words.

Everything was pretty safe in the Santa Ana neighborhood where my family lived until I was seven-years-old.  As kids, my twin sister, Kaely, and I could play outside, even at dusk.  I don’t recall seeing a single crime.

Then we moved.

Money was a little tight for my parents, so we all packed up and went to another apartment, just a block or two from KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.

Wow, everything was sure different in our new neighborhood!  As a seven-year-old, I heard my first gunshots, saw my first gang members and witnessed drug deals occur right outside our door.

You might think that it would be easy for someone like me to fall into the trap of the streets.  I saw classmates who joined gangs, and in class even sat beside a 16-year-old girl who became pregnant.

But I just didn’t make those choices.  I’m now 17-years-old, and my family still live in the same apartment.  In June I’m graduating from Godinez Fundamental High School and in September I will begin attending California State University, Fullerton, majoring in liberal arts.

I give so much credit to my parents.  They taught us kids the importance of good values, picking our friends wisely and having goals.

My sister and I started going to KidWorks when we were in fourth grade.  My Mom heard about their programs from a neighbor.  “You’re going,” she said.  It wasn’t even a discussion.  We’ve been there ever since.

My KidWorks mentors and tutors mean so much to me.  I remember asking them about college and thinking, “I would like to go there, too.”

Thinking about college is a little scary.  But I’ve faced scarier situations!  Like always, I’m going to give it my very best.



By Leslie Catalan