SOUTH LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KABC) -- She's achieved what so many dream of -- acceptance to Stanford University, one of the top universities in the country!
But getting to this point wasn't easy. At 11-years-old, American-born Idalia Perez was forced to choose between life in Mexico with her parents or life in the U.S. without them.
"I told myself that I had to persevere, had to push through," Idalia said. "I grew up in South Central Los Angeles around the USC area. So we lived in this little apartment around here."
At a very young age it was her father, Jacob, who instilled in Idalia a passion for education, especially for numbers.
Her father would come home from work and challenge her with math problems.
Idalia says it was a normal happy childhood. Until the day her dad did not come home.
Suddenly detained by immigration authorities and without warning, Idalia's family was torn apart. Her father was deported to Mexico.
"We tried doing everything to help him stay, we gave them the report cards showed the judge how well we were in school and how they always pay taxes, how we always paid rent, we like they never did anything wrong," Idalia expressed.
With the exception of Idalia's brother, Marvin, who chose to stay in Los Angeles, the family decided to leave the U.S. to be with their father, and start over in Mexico.
The transition was difficult for Idalia, she never stopped wanting to return home to L.A. So three years after leaving the U.S., Idalia returned, but without her family.
"Definitely do feel like I had to grow up and mature quicker than other people," Idalia said. "My mom was like well you have to cook for yourself, clean for yourself, you have to do like everything for yourself, which I pretty much did."
Fortunately, people like Jessica Sanchez-Caridad, a mentor and counselor for Upward Bound at Los Angeles City College, a program that helps inner-city kids prep for college, was there to help Idalia.
From providing much-needed transportation to attending Idalia's high school graduation and assisting her with college applications, Jessica became a second mom to the teenager.
"When I realized she wasn't with her parents and I looked at her transcripts and I saw how determined and how focus she was," Jessica said. "I started asking her, 'where do you want to go to college?' I wanted her to know...you can be there if you want to."
With Jessica's guidance, and Idalia's focus and determination, the 18-year-old was accepted to Stanford University.
"I remember being there and thinking like wow like I'm at Stanford this day has really come, I'm here!," Idalia expressed.
The young Stanford student wants to make her parents, culture and community proud.
Student goes from South L.A. to Stanford
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