Sal, 21, is in his fifth year at the National University of El Salvador where he is studying Law and Social Science. He lives at home with his mother, father, three older brothers, and younger sister. His father works as a private security guard and his mother works in a factory. By 8am every morning, Sal is already awake and getting ready for the busy day that begins with a nearly two-hour bus ride to the university. Classes begin at 11:00 am and end at 3:30pm, after which Sal returns home to help around the house and stay caught up with schoolwork. It is well after dark when he crawls into bed to rest before another full day.

One of our favorite things about Sal is his mischevious and playful nature. He is always joking, teasing, and laughing, and yet he is also the person who is the first to offer a comforting hug.

We asked Sal to answer a few questions to help you get to know him better. Below are his responses!

What are some of your professional aspirations?

Id like to become a great lawyer and work for CIS [Center for Exchange and Solidarity] or the government.

Why do you think your education is important?

My education is important because someday my family will need me to help out financially. Moreover, my education helps with my self-esteem. It will help me reach my goal of becoming a professional, which my country needs more ofsoit can keep growing. I feel that since we live in such a violent country, I need to make a difference.

Describe someone who has inspired or motivated you:

My family is my greatest motivation because I know how hard theyve worked for me. Thats why I want to be someone in life, to be able to help my parents so they feel proud of me.

How has the crime/violence in this country affected you personally?

It affects me because I have to be very cautious every time I leave to go to school. Even in my own community, I feel uneasy, which, even though I dont want it to, affects me mentally. Its not that Im just worrying about myself, but I worry about my friends and family as well. It breaks my heart to watch the news each day, to see the murders and to see how many of my fellow Salvadorans are dying. Its scary just to walk down the street.

How do you think positive change can come about in your community or country?

Young people need better support systems and better examples. Parents need to take responsibility from the moment their children are born. The church needs to work harder at bringing young people closer to God. And the police need to do something to actually protect people, instead of just decorating the streets with policemen and soldiers.

Tell us about your community service project.

Im working on a vegetable garden plot with some of the other scholarship students, which is important to me because Im learning how to garden. In the future, Ill be able to grow my own vegetables and eat healthily. In addition, as were creating this small garden, were helping to protect the environment by not using chemical fertilizers.

What do you do in your free time?

I dont really have a lot of free time, but with the little bit that I do have, I do chores and listen to music.

What is your favorite book or genre?

My favorite book is La Ultima Guinda, which is a novel about the Salvadoran civil war.

What is your favorite music?

My favorite music is Christian rock and really any worship or instrumental music.

What are your best qualities?

Im funny, I like to have fun, and Im responsible and honest.

What is something surprising about you that only a few people know?

Despite everything, I always have a smile on my face. Im really sentimental and brave. Id like to be a musician in the national orchestra or any other orchestra.