Story by Erika Pedroza
Since transferring to Nimitz High School in the fall of 2015, Sara Escobar and her parents have lived in more than seven different places – run-down apartments, motels, a shelter, an old house belonging to a friend. Having been transient most of her life, there’s only one goal the 2019 Nimitz salutatorian hopes to accomplish.
“I want a nice house,” she says. “I mean, I don’t want a mansion per say. I just don’t want to move around from place to place. But more than that, I want financial stability. I don’t want to be barely scraping by.”
Through most of elementary school, Sara and her parents lived in the attic of a friend’s home.
“It was not very spacious, and come summertime, we were living in the hottest part of the house,” she says.
In middle school, the family moved twice, and when Sara was in high school, they stayed in one place most of her freshman year. But before the year ended, the family began moving around more frequently – once every four or five months.
“My parents have trouble getting an apartment and jobs because they both have felonies on their record,” she says. “It’s always that only one parent has a job so obviously that limits our income. We had to factor in budget, and the places that would let us in. Irving is really strict about who they let in their apartments. But we tried to stay in Irving is because [my parents] wanted me to stay in the same school for four years. So we had to start moving around.
“And by the end of 2017, we started being homeless.”
The family stayed in a van for a few months around the holidays.
“That was probably the hardest [situation],” says Sara. “It seems like we were in the worst places during Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
They also stayed at the Salvation Army in Downtown Dallas for about four months
“It was a roof over my head and a place to take a shower – and I was thankful for that,” she says. “But there were some characters there. They woke us up every morning at 4:30 a.m., and I had to catch the bus or train from downtown Dallas all the way to Nimitz. I was so exhausted during those months. I felt like I wasn’t getting any sleep.”
For the last year, the family has stayed in motels.
“It was pretty hard,” she says. “Sometimes I would get upset. I’d think, ‘This isn’t really fair. I don’t deserve this.’ But at the end of the day, there was nothing I could really do. I had to think long term and instead focus on what I could do to change my situation.”
So she focused on her studies.
“My parents always stressed to me that education was going to be my only way out of our situation,” she says. “I don’t have any other talents. I’m not good at anything else except school. And my situation isn’t an excuse to not accomplish my goals.”
And she never used it as one. In fact, until she delivered her salutatorian speech in June, only a handful of people knew of her situation.
“I didn’t want to be poor little Sara who has this going on at home,” she says. “I didn’t want to be that to everyone at school and to all of my teachers. I just tried to get through it. That got hard, too – keeping it all in and people not knowing what I’m going through. But I still didn’t want people to know. It was kind of embarrassing, too. Everyone else goes home, and they have a normal life.”
Next month, she will pack her bags one more time. This time, embarking to the University of Texas at Austin, where she will major in biology with hopes of becoming a dentist.
“Science is one of my worst subjects,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always found it fascinating; I’m just not very good at it. I probably failed most biology tests, but I’m going to major in it in college.”
In true Sara form, she will not allow her circumstances to define her trajectory. Instead, she will find a way to overcome the odds and eventually earn the keys to her forever home.
“She is actually really good at biology,” points our her instructor Bibiana Mendez. “I grade hard, but she rose to the challenge and is extremely well prepared for her college courses. She is an exceptional young woman and I expect great things from her in the future. I also made her promise to invite me to her college graduation, wedding and to name her first born after some biological concept.”
The Irving Schools Foundation has set up a contribution fund for Sara. All donations will be paid directly to Sara’s school, the University of Texas at Austin. To donate, click here – http://weblink.donorperfect.com/saraescobar.