Darlene’s parents divorced when she was 11 and she found herself surviving on WIC and food
stamps. She recalls looking at the balance on the EBT card and fretting about whether they would be able to afford milk at the end of the month. She took on the role of caring for her siblings and providing for their basic needs while her mother was at work, all while simultaneously trying to excel in school. Her parents told her to use their mistakes as her lessons. There was a lot to learn.
When she received her scholarship to the University of San Francisco, she was overjoyed to learn that her hard work had afforded her the opportunity to fulfill her dreams. While there, she worked at The Women’s Building and helped people with basic services such as filling out immigration paperwork or creating a resume. In this, she found that her true passion was making a real and lasting impact on people’s lives.
One night, however, while she and her friends were at a festival, she was drugged and consequently raped. Education had always been an escape for her, but just as she thought she’d made it, these men took her confidence and the strength she had built. It almost destroyed her. She felt lost and angry, but she dealt with it through writing and acknowledging the traumatic assault. She eventually pushed herself back into society. She would not let the attack dictate her life’s path, just as she hadn’t allowed other things to stop her in the past.
In 2018, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and her focus shifted to public policy. Currently, she is finishing up her Masters in Latin American Studies from UCSD and plans to work first hand with community members to create systems that work for working families. She wants to make a lasting and practical change in people’s lives so that no little girl has to look at their family’s EBT card and worry.