By Erika Maldonado
Aura Xec was 10 years old when she started school in the United States. English was as foreign to her as Los Angeles’ urban landscape. She was reunited with her parents who were in the States for three years and her last home was in a rural village in Guatemala where she lived with abusive relatives. She hadn’t been in a classroom for the past year. In order to help her connect with her new country, she turned to technology and spent hours watching English tutorial videos on YouTube.
“In Guate, we didn’t have anything,” Xec said. “Here technology is everywhere. I can practice my writing and look up a word I don’t know. It’s so much easier.”
Xec, who is now 18, knew that the way to improve herself was to focus on her education. She has met her requirements for graduation at Youthbuild Charter School in Los Angeles a semester early and will attend her commencement ceremony in spring. Her tech teacher Julia Mijango invited her and a few students to participate in a five-week coding class earlier this year, which sparked an interest for web development. She attended her first hackathon, WeHack/Southeast Cities, in January to learn more about ways to use coding to positively impact her community.
She wants to empower others to share their stories with personal websites.
The Southern California Latino Policy Center and developer program, Sabio partnered with East LA College and surrounding cities to address issues such as affordable child care, lack of open space, health and public transportation that are plaguing the area.
“Sabio wants to expose Latinos, like Aura, to the vibrant world of tech because it is dynamic and fun,” said Sabio co-founder Liliana Monge. “Our Latino community must participate in this tech revolution to ensure its success.”
Attending hackathons geared for people like herself is the first step, Xec said. Her mission is to help people and the ever-changing landscape of the tech sector is what drew her to it. With a high school diploma just in reach, she looks to a future with endless possibilities. The mental and physical abuse by relatives who should have looked after her while her parents were in the U.S., she said, serve as a reminder that she proved them wrong.
“We cannot do anything about the past,” Xec said. “It’s up to us to change how we want to live. We can do anything if we try our best.”