Norma Ester, 23, is a sixth-year Literature major at the National University of El Salvador, where she anticipates graduating this year. She lives at home with her father, an agricultural day laborer, her mother, a fruit vendor, her two older sisters, older brother, and younger brother. Norma wakes at 3 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, so she can catch the first of three bus rides around 4:30 in order to be able to arrive at the university on time and begin class at 7. Transportation is very difficult for Norma because the buses she has to take are typically replete with passengers and she often has to take the much more expensive mototaxi when there isn’t room on the buses. She dedicates Fridays to seeking out tutoring or other homework help if she encounters something she doesn’t understand. Most days, she arrives home by 2:30, depending on how many buses are available. For the rest of the afternoon and evening, she dedicates her time to helping around the house and studying. She generally goes to bed well after dark, around 11 p.m.
We asked Norma to answer a few questions to help you get to know her better. Below are her responses!
What are some of your professional aspirations?
To teach language and literature to children between 7th and 10th grades.
Why do you think your education is important?
Education allows me to be able to face the difficulties I’ll encounter in the future. In addition, I’ll be able to help those in my community who need it the most.
Describe someone who has inspired or motivated you:
My mom, because despite the fact that she didn’t go to school when she was young, she motivates me to do my best in school. And when I feel like I can’t keep going, she finds a way to motivate me by talking about her life, since she didn’t have the opportunity to get an education like I do, which now prevents her from getting a good-paying job. What I like best about her is that she’s courageous, independent, understanding, motivating, and is always able to reach any goal she sets for herself.
How has the crime/violence in this country affected you personally?
It’s affected me by making me feel unsafe when I leave the house. I can’t help but think about something happening to me on the way to school, even thinking that I might lose my life. Additionally, the gangs don’t respect the people in my community. If they see someone doing well for himself or herself, they charge that person a fee in exchange for not killing them. They even go so far as to go into people’s homes and take what little money they may have. This makes me feel scared wherever I go. Anytime I’m doing something, I can’t help but wonder where we’ll be in 10 years.
How do you think positive change can come about in your community or country?
I think the best way to create positive change is to bring greater awareness to parents by holding workshops about how to educate their children and explaining the importance of paying attention to them because a lot of kids get into bad things out of pure curiosity. In addition, I’d like to see the laws of our country upheld at any price.
Tell us about your community service project.
I work with the Clean Water Project. This involves going to visit the people who have been given water filters [through the scholarship program] to see if there is any problem and if so, find a solution. We do our visits every 3 months. It’s important to me because it gives me a way to bring awareness to people so that they get water filters and start seeing those benefits instead of spending unnecessary money on treating waterborne illnesses.
What do you do in your free time?
I don’t really have free time because I’m at the end of the semester and I have too much homework to do. If I did have free time, I’d like to play softball and soccer.
What is your favorite book or genre?
The Bible, adventure stories like “Robinson Crusoe,” and sentimental novels like “María” and “Marianela.”
What is your favorite music?
Romantic music in English and Christian music.
What are your best qualities?
I’m independent, optimistic, understanding, cooperative, and hard working.
What would you say if you could speak face-to-face with your sponsors?
I’d say, “Thank you for the support you have given me, and thanks to you, I am going to school. Without your support, it would not have been possible to continue my schooling because often my parents don’t have enough to make ends meet. But this has meant so much to me because I have learned so many things in this program that I didn’t know before. I have decided that when I finish my degree and get a job, I am going to do the same thing — give back what was given to me and be able to see the joy that is brought to other young people by giving them the same opportunity that I am getting right now.”