By Antonio Caro, Development Officer
“We aren’t meant to be alone. In every stage of life, you need some form of support. Whether it’s a hug, a smile, a mentor or financial assistance, kind gestures both big and small help us move forward. It helped me when I first discovered Mary’s Center.” Kathya Soto, age 20.
Kathya Soto is a 20-year-old college student studying to become an electrical engineer. Filled with hope and a drive for self-improvement, she radiates with gratitude. As a Dental Patient Navigator at Mary’s Center, Kathya is grateful to have a position providing her the flexibility to attend and pay for school. Most of all, she is grateful for the opportunity to return the kindness shown to her and her family eight years ago when they first walked through Mary’s Center’s doors.
Alone in a foreign land.
Imagine uprooting your life and arriving in a foreign land. With eyes set on the horizon, you are determined to succeed. But, the friends and support system you had back home are absent. With no idea of who to turn to or who to ask for help, you are overwhelmed.
That’s how Kathya and her parents felt in 2011 when they first arrived in the United States from El Salvador. At the age of 12, she came with her mother, baby sister, and father for the prospect of a better life. Soon after arriving, Kathya’s mother realized that her daughter needed a physical exam to attend school. However, the family was uninsured and unsure how to navigate the healthcare system. Until, they found Mary’s Center.
A second home. A community that cares.
Kathya found a second home at Mary’s Center. During her physical, the doctor conducted a teen screening and realized that she was suffering from depression. So, she was referred to the Mary’s Center Teen Program. Welcomed with open arms, Kathya found a safe space, new friends, and mentorship opportunities. Although bullied at school, she knew that Mary’s Center would always be there to support her. “When I would have difficulty with school work or bullying, my teen program mentors, Walter Castillo and Celia Woo, would be there ready to help and listen,” recounts Kathya. With their support, her confidence and self-esteem began to grow.
Year after year, she partook in internships, career panels, coding classes and more. All the while, her family stayed on a path of good health thanks to the Center’s services. Once it came time to apply for college, Walter and Celia helped Kathya through the application process. “Because of my situation, I couldn’t apply to many scholarships and I didn’t qualify for financial aid. But thanks to Mary’s Center, I was able to discover private scholarships and a network that cared about investing in my future.”
Motivated to give back.
Today, Kathya’s efforts have paid off. She is not only enrolled in Montgomery College but also works as a Dental Patient Navigator at Mary’s Center. In her role, she welcomes and assists the hard-working and down-trodden with their dental appointments. “You see the struggle and stress in their eyes,” she says, “I know that whatever situation they are going through, they will never be rejected here. That’s why I love my job and that’s why I give when I can.”
Kathya is invested in her community. Since #GivingTuesday is just a week away, we asked her about the importance of supporting your community. She responded:
“You give without expecting something in return but because you’ll never know what our community’s potential can be until you trust – until you invest. I am grateful that Mary’s Center gave me the confidence and support to better myself, and I am happy to return the favor by giving others hope – especially on Giving Tuesday.
Without our community of volunteers, partners, and supporters, Mary’s Center would not be able to impact the lives of thousands of hardworking individuals like Kathya. That’s why we need you!
Join Kathya a week from now for Mary’s Center’s #GivingTuesday Campaign. On Tuesday, December 3rd, you can help us raise the funds needed to build the blocks to a stronger, healthier future for the thousands of families that call Mary’s Center home. Click here to follow Mary’s Center on Facebook for #GivingTuesday updates.