LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Letisia Ruiz's path to becoming a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department was not typical or easy.
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, she is one of 12 children who grew up less than a mile from LAPD headquarters.
"I ran away from home at a very young age. I was 12 when I ran away. Didn't return back home, but I kept a good relationship with my parents," said Ruiz.
In middle school Ruiz dropped out. At 15-years-old she became pregnant. It was then she began to find her way, after moving into a transitional home for single mothers.
She eventually graduated high school with honors.
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"In my senior year I had a bad experience with law enforcement and that enlightened me into a career with law enforcement, which I never thought about before," said Ruiz.
Ruiz also endured homelessness, but was able to find a permanent home and attend college.
"It was difficult. I was part of the system, the welfare system, the Section 8 system, and I utilized it to my advantage to provide a better life and future for my child at the time," said Ruiz.
It was while attending Cal State L.A. that she applied to the LAPD. In 2005 she was hired, patrolling the same streets where she once helped her mother sell tamales. Sgt. Ruiz's journey is one she shares with others, in the hopes of inspiring them.
"It doesn't matter what your circumstances are, you just have to have the drive and desire to get to where you want to be," said Ruiz.
Ruiz is now a mother of two boys. Her oldest is 23 and her youngest is 6. As a single mother, she says her faith has helped guide her.