Meet Olivia Ball, El Rancho Junior, Growing Forward With Grit and Grace

I have always had a responsibility to my family. I come from a household led by my single mother who has learned to provide for my siblings and me, just as a pair of parents would.

My siblings Maxine and Frank, currently 19 and 22 years of age, did not complete their academic careers. They both left high school at the age of 16, having to turn to independent studies and, soon after that, testing out of high school.

There were moments in my childhood when, financially, we were living a stable lifestyle. There was food on the table and a roof over our heads; but this was not always the case. My mother never felt the need to worry us by telling us we had barely been making rent and that her hours were being cut at work, but we sensed it. Once again, we’d fallen into a financial rut.

My mother came from a single-parent household herself, similar to our own family dynamic. My grandma raised my mother and three sons. At only 13-yrs-old, my “Nana,” as I call her, traveled from Guadalajara, Mexico to Northern California on her own. Here, she found employment as a migrant worker. Later, she settled her family here in Pico Rivera and began running her very own restaurant in Montebello.

My mother achieved a two-year education at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise (FIDM), graduating while pregnant with my older brother.

I realize my living here in Pico Rivera is partially due to the proximity in which my Nana lives to my high school. I’ve also come to realize that my mother fears the possibility that I will never leave my childhood town.

Due to my family circumstances, it was necessary for me to mature at an early age. Ever since I was a young child, I knew that college would always be the ultimate priority and that furthering my education would give me the opportunity to provide a better life for those who mean the most to me.

The ideal life for me would be giving my Nana that house of her dreams, aiding my siblings in whatever path they chose to take, and giving my mother a life in which she will never worry, work, or toil another day in her life.

Today, I constantly worry and sometimes feel afraid of anything that may get in the way of my chances of getting into college. This inspires me to be committed to my studies. I spend close to every day on campus, often up until 6 or 8 o’clock at night. Sometimes I feel that my staying so late on campus is an inconvenience for my mother, that all my work in school will be for naught, and that I won’t leave this town.

I‘m currently taking three A.P. classes here at El Rancho High School. I treasure being in as many extra-curricular activities as possible. I’m in the Advanced Drama Department, the Academic Decathlon, and in several clubs.

College seems both so far away and yet simply around the corner. My academic career is still young. My time with Generation 1st Degree Pico Rivera has reassured me that I am not alone in my endeavors towards college. This organization makes me feel that when the time comes around for me to start applying to colleges, I will be accepted into a college or university, where I’ll be successful and very happy.