Junior shares her family’s inspiring CRSM journey

At 16, Karolyna is one of eight children in her family, and the fourth to have attended Cristo Rey St. Martin. At our recent Elevate fundraiser, she shared how she was inspired by her three sisters who have gone before her through CRSM. She has her sights set on graduating from college and law school to pursue a career in immigration law.

Good evening.

It is my pleasure to be here with you all to tell you a little about my journey at Cristo Rey St. Martin. My name is Karolyna. I am 16-years-old and I am a current junior, graduating with the class of 2019.

I would like to start by thanking Cristo Rey St. Martin for the many doors it has opened for me, for the lessons it has taught me, and for the person it has shaped me into being.

Prior to attending CRSM, I was a shy, awkward person. Thankfully, at CRSM I could not remain that shy awkward person. When I was told I would have to work in the corporate world with adults, it was a scary thought. For several months, I worried. I worried about making mistakes, getting lost, about not building relationships.

When I first started at Takeda, I remember shaking as I walked in and feeling like I had been living in a different world. Seeing men in suits, or women in corporate attire was never something I had seen at home or anywhere. This intimidated me more than anything. How was I, a 14-year-old, going to even say good morning or hello to someone who looks different than me?

I would like to thank Cristo Rey because had it not been for the school, I would have never received the corporate world experience that I have. It has taught me so many lessons. As a sophomore, I was given a project at Takeda to do a presentation on the topic of “The Affordable Care Act.” The first time I thought it went terrible, but I was given a second chance and received the feedback I needed to try again. My second time, I received nothing but positive feedback, and more than anything, I was impressed with myself. While receiving feedback for me was a challenge, it taught me a lot. It taught me that people don’t want to see you fail, and for that reason, they will help you and give you suggestions.

That is what the corporate work study program and CRSM is all about – adults who care about you and want to help you be the best you can be. I have come a long way from the frightened freshman who walked in the door that first day at Takeda. In fact, I even danced there last year for Cinco de Mayo. I take Ballet Folklorico lessons because I want embrace my culture, where my parents come from, and who I am.

I come from a family of eight children and Cristo Rey St. Martin has provided opportunities we never could have imagined. It didn’t exist for my oldest two brothers. But when my parents learned about CRSM, they made sure that my sisters – and now me – attended this place that wanted to see students succeed and go far in life. Three of my sisters are CRSM alumni and my role models. They have attended undergrad and graduate school at Middlebury, Georgetown University, Lake Forest College, Marian University, Grand Canyon University and one currently attends Columbia University in New York. I am the sixth child of the eight and hope I am becoming a role model to my two younger twin sisters who I hope will have the opportunity to attend CRSM. We would not be able to do all this if it weren’t for people like you.

Because of Cristo Rey St. Martin, my goals are to attend Marquette University and the John Marshall Law School so that I can someday practice immigration law. At Takeda, I get to work with the lawyers.

Next summer I hope to participate in a law program at John Marshall and am applying for summer programs at Georgetown and Brown universities to be selected for one their law programs too.

While I am very grateful for the opportunities CRSM has created for my siblings and myself, I must also thank my hard working parents.

I would especially like to thank my mom and dad. My mom for always doing whatever she could to make her family happy. When I was in seventh grade, she went back to school for her Medical Assistant’s certification. To advance at the health department, she knew education was the route, and my sisters were her school role models. I remember seeing her staying up late at night doing her homework and during a family outing, my vivid memory is her sitting at the poolside making sure we were all having fun, while she was doing her homework. Even doing it all, picking us up from school, cooking, etc., she graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was given an award for her hard work. Today she works as Medical Assistant at the Lake County Health Department.

My dad is my role model too. If I didn’t hear “Echale Ganas”, in other words, “try hard on a daily basis,” from my dad, who knows where my siblings and I would be today? My dad has always been my supporter. He works in construction and has taught me how to play volleyball, and even how to memorize the periodic table. He has taught me that nothing is impossible and to never give up. Sitting in the car with my dad, or next to him on the couch, is always a learning experience.

Thank you mom and dad!

As the transition to our new building is right around the corner, I am more than excited. However, I am sad to be leaving the building that has taught me what it meant to work with what you have. Prior to attending CRSM, I don’t think I really knew what it meant to “work with what you have”. I knew it meant, you had resources, but never did I understand how. How was I supposed to work with what I had? Until, at CRSM I learned. I learned I had to work with tables that had broken legs and were being held up by books. I learned how to care more for the building, the building with a giant hole in the ceiling, cracks in the walls, broken bathroom stall doors. I learned to care for what I had and more importantly, learned that it doesn’t matter the place I am in, regardless, I am still receiving the education I need to take me far in life.

I would like to thank you all for your hard work and donations. For trusting in the school and students that your donation is being put to good use and going a long way. I would like to thank you for helping someone like myself attend a college preparatory school, the one school where I have been given a chance to be successful.

I also would like to thank you for taking time to listen to my story. While Cristo Rey St, Martin has opened doors for me, you have too. For all of the donors, supervisors, teachers and staff and my parents who are here today, I would like to thank you all for shaping me into the person I have become today.

While this the beginning of my life-long journey as a learner, I am proud to share my story with you. Thank you.