Editor’s Note: During Spring Break I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Guatemala in order to participate in a one-week mission trip in San Lucas. It was here at the mission that I had the great honor of meeting Selica Piloy, 20, a true inspiration to all. One could only consider it fate that I would meet and befriend another aspiring journalist thousands of miles away from home with similar dreams of changing the world. Gracias, mi amiga, for showing me the true meaning of bravery, strength and passion. –Molly Seaman The following story was written by Selica Piloy.
Hello. This is Selica.
I was born on Oct. 18th, 1995 in a town called Panimaquip in Guatemala. My town is very close to the Atitlan Volcano, and 30 minutes away from the beautiful and famous Lake Atitlan.
When I was born my parents were so happy because I was the third of six children. I have five sisters and one brother.
My father, Jose Piloy, works as a security guard and leaves home around 4:30 every morning and comes back around 7:00 at night. He is the most hardworking person that I know. He never shows us that he is his tired and he always tries to make my family laugh by telling short stories.
My mother, Patricia Panjoj, is a housewife. She wakes up at 3am every morning to prepare breakfast and lunch for my father and siblings. Throughout the day she weaves very colorful and traditional blouses and table runners to sell at the market. However, it takes three weeks to complete each one.
When I was 6 years old I started school at pre-primaria Montessori. It was my first time in school, but I was not afraid because I love to learn. I studied numbers, colors, shapes and vowels. In first grade I was the first girl in my class to learn how to read. Every day when I came home my father was excited to help me with my homework.
However, my home like many in town does not have electricity so I would always do my homework by candle light.
In fifth grade I participated in a spelling bee and won the first place prize. I later competed with students from all over the San Lucas region. I took second place over all and from that moment I realized that I want to succeed in my life.
Education is very important to me, but I always had to work to support my family. I worked in a store selling candies, snacks and food every morning starting at 6 am. I would leave work at noon so that I would have enough time to go to school.
In 2008 I started my secondary school in Centro Educativo Pavarotti which is located very near the lake. I won a scholarship from an institution to attend a private school because of my good grades. I woke up every morning at 5 am to have breakfast and get ready to leave home at 6:30 in order to arrive at school by 7:30 a.m. After school I had to go to work and I would do my homework when I had free time.
I would spend every weekend working from 6 a.m. until 10 at night. However, the owner did not pay me a lot of money. I would only get paid 15 or 20 quetzales a day ($1.80 US dollars). It was really hard because I wanted to play soccer or dolls with my friends, but I could not because I knew that I had to work in order to help pay for school books, clothing and medical supplies for my family.
In 2011, I had to stop going to school, because my father told me that he could no longer afford it. Even though I had a scholarship, it was not enough to pay for transportation to school. I cried because I saw all my friends start high school and I want to be there with them, so badly.
During this time I decided to go to Guatemala City to work for a bakery where they payed me 700.00 quetzales a month ($87.50 US dollars). I worked for twelve months to save money in order to attend high school.
In 2012, I started my high school with happiness and motivation. Throughout this time I was top of my class. I was awarded Miss Independence, which is an honor given to the student who receive the highest score out of 500 students on the yearly exam. I won this award again the following year.
I always knew that I wanted to continue my education after high school. However here in Guatemala it is very uncommon for students to attend college, especially women. 15 out of 100 students typically have access to a university.
My last year of high school I won a Gold Medal from Industrias de La Riva for getting the best grades out of everyone in my class. Shortly after a man came to speak to my high school where he offered a scholarship to attend college in The United States.
When I was a child I would always read Guatemalan newspapers with articles about the states and envision myself as a college student in America. Even when I saw an airplane I would imagine myself flying to other countries.
This is when my dream came true.
I applied for the scholarship and went to several interviews with six different people. A day later while I was doing my chores a man called me to congratulate me that I won the scholarship and I screamed and jumped.
In July, I am going to The States to attend an international college in Missouri. There I will be studying journalism.
I am interested in journalism, because, through that, I can help poor people, especially orphan children, by inspiring them to succeed in their life. My ultimate dream is to build an orphanage because I see so many kids selling gum, or shining shoes in the street. I want to give them a home and encourage them to go to school. I want to decrease hunger, poverty and illiteracy in my town.
I am sharing my story with you to inspire you to climb mountains always and to follow your dreams no matter how impossible they might seem.
Con todo mi corazon (with all my love),
The Life of a Mayan Woman