Yolanda Bravo. Photo by Mimi Pollack

Mimi Pollack

Some people take the initiative without being asked. Yolanda Bravo is that kind of person. Since immigrating to San Diego from Tijuana in 2013, she has not only taken the initiative in her life, education, and work, she has done so with fierce determination and positive results. She is a role model for other immigrants.

Bravo arrived in San Diego as a single mother with two teenage daughters, Carolina and Paola. They spoke little English, but knew the importance of an education. Determined to make a better life for herself and her daughters, Bravo enrolled her daughters in high school, while she studied English as a second language at San Diego Continuing Education. Her teacher, Toni Fernandes, took a special interest in her and encouraged her to continue on and study at Mesa College.

Although she had a degree in psychology from Mexico, she knew she had to “start from scratch” here, so she enrolled in child development classes as well as English classes. As her English improved, her teachers encouraged her to apply as a teacher’s aide in the continuing education program. In 2016, she was hired as an hourly aide for both the English and Spanish classes at the continuing education center in San Diego’s Mountain View neighborhood.

Bravo stood out as an aide because she was very conscientious in her work and took the initiative to go above and beyond what was required. The teachers and administrators took notice, and when a full time teacher’s aide position opened up in 2017, she applied and got the job. In 2017, she began working at another continuing education center at Mesa College, where she continues to excel at serving both the teachers and the students. Many times she is the liaison between them. She also likes to help and motivate the students. She works four nights a week from 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m.

She has also put her child development classes to good as an aide for Miller Head Start preschool in Tierrasanta. She works there five days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Like most immigrants who work long hours, Bravo does this, so that her daughters can have a good education and a bright future. The three live in a small, but cozy one-bedroom apartment and are like ships passing in the night between work and school. They connect on weekends.

Bravo is very proud of her daughters and feels the sacrifice has been worth it. Carolina has just graduated with honors from UC San Diego and plans to apply to medical school. Paola will go to Northwestern University in the fall on a full scholarship. She wants to be a mechanical engineer. The two sisters are now fluent in English, as is their mother, no small feat after only five years.

Bravo gave up a lot when she moved to San Diego. Born in Guadalajara, her family went to Tijuana when she was 14. Her life there was very different from her life in San Diego. They lived in a large house with a lot of family support. She received her BA degree in psychology at the Ibero Americano University.

She wanted to help low-income families and found work in a school with special needs children. She had a good position and had 35 people working under her. She was planning on getting her master’s degree. However, fate and unfortunate circumstances intervened, and she felt her daughters would have more opportunities in the United States.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Bravo’s desire to be of service to others. Although she works from early in the morning until late at night, she is very much involved in her daughters’ lives. They constantly text and stay in touch during the day. In addition, she is always there if teachers or students in the evening program need her help, especially the Latino students.

She believes education is growth and continues to take online classes herself. She is preparing to take the citizenship test and would one day like to get her master’s degree in psychology here. As she says, “I want to show that Mexicans have brains!”

Mimi Pollack is an English as a Second Language teacher and a freelance writer.

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