Things That Matter

In One Week This Latina Became Homeless, Her Mom Abandoned Her, Yet She Landed A Huge Scholarship That Changed Her Life

Anya Sifuentes knows how to outrun adversity. The high school athlete from Northside High School in Arkansas has overcome homelessness and is now on her way to college.

And so much of her success has to do with her strength and determination, key traits of any prime athlete.

Last October, Sifuentes, went home after school to find she was permanently locked out of her own home.

“It was late September that things just started getting strange,” Sifuentes explained in an interview with CBS affiliate KFSM-TV. “On October 1, I went home right after I went after school and realized that I couldn’t get in my home anymore.”

The reason why Sifuentes and her family were expelled from their home is unknown but according to CBS, as soon as she learned the news she went straight to her track coach.

“She called me and she was just distraught,” Jeff Smith, Sifuentes’ track coach told CBS News. “I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ She goes, ‘I’m homeless. I don’t have any clothes. I don’t have a place to go.'”

Sifuentes’ story took a turn for the even worse when her mother told her that she was leaving the family as well.

“My mom started really acting weird and you could tell that she was late on all of her bills and she wasn’t acting the same anymore,” Sifuentes said. “My mom said that ‘I’m not gonna stay with y’all.’ I thought, ‘Why?'”

Left to raise two younger siblings and a nephew, Sifuentes says she realized she had to step up and take things into her own hands. “To think that we’d be separated — I did not like the feeling,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be the same anymore.”

Determined to keep her siblings and family together, Sifuentes took on multiple jobs, got her family into a new apartment and started to sign the checks for bills. This, all while attending classes and going to track practice.

“It just slaps you in the face — knowing that you’re an adult now,” Sifuentes explained in an interview. “You can’t play around now. You can’t just slack off one day because it will hit you later.”

Still, despite all of the stress she had over money and keeping her family together, Sifuentes says she overcame her depression by keeping her goal of being happy in mind.

“I set a goal in my mind. I have a goal to be happy, even though all this is going on and my family doesn’t seem like a family anymore,” Sifuentes said. “I’m depressed and I’m stressed and money is overwhelming right now. I thought to myself, ‘God is the only thing that’s going to get me through all this pain.'”

Running became an outlet for the teen, and eventually, it became her champion.

This past year, the high school senior was offered a scholarship by the University of the Ozarks to run for their team. She signed with them last month and will be headed to their track field in the coming Fall semester.

“I just look back and think, ‘This is who you are. You’re someone strong,'” Sifuentes stated on her impression of herself after overcoming so much. “You don’t give up easily. Even though times get rough, you have to keep going. Even though you fall down, you have to keep going.”

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This Group of Latino Students In the Bronx Had Their Names Flown Into Space on NASA’s Mars Rover

Things That Matter

This Group of Latino Students In the Bronx Had Their Names Flown Into Space on NASA’s Mars Rover

Photo via Alejandro Mundo

Everyone has a teacher that has come into their life and gone above and beyond. A teacher that has changed your life for the better. For a group of Latino students at Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, that teacher is Alejandro Mundo.

Science teacher Alejandro Mundo encouraged his astronomy class to send their names into the NASA’s Mars space rover.

Not only is Mr. Mundo a beloved high school science teacher, he’s also an associate NASA researcher. Apparently, NASA was the one who proposed the idea to Mr. Mundo in the first place. NASA reached out to Mr. Mundo and asked if the 25 astronomy students would send their names, stenciled on chips, on the Mars Rover.

NASA believed the idea would symbolize a personal touch between humanity and the mystery and wonder of space. They also liked the idea of a group of Latino students–a group that is underrepresented in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)–and the historic space mission.

Alejandro Mundo’s primary reason for becoming a science teacher in the first place was to get more inner-city kids of color into the STEM fields.

As of now, Black and Latinos make up between 8 and 9 percent of STEM occupations. Kingsbridge International High School, the school that Mr. Mundo teaches at, is 93 percent Latino. 86 percent of those students are leaning English as a second language.

“The only way we can change that in the future is by starting with this current generation,” Mundo told NBC News. “So by igniting my students with a passion for science, that is the key that I have seen that can make a difference. Little by little, we will be changing those statistics.”

Born in Mexico, Alejandro Mundo came over to the US when he was 12-years-old, hardly knowing any English.

The adults around him–who were supposed to support him–told him that he would end up “cleaning bathrooms” or “working in a factory”. Mundo knew he was destined for more than that. “No, I’m going to college,” he told himself. “I’m going to get a career, and I’m going to use this career not for my personal growth but to help others, specifically people like me.”

Now, Alejandro Mundo inspires his majority-Latino students to also reach for the stars–literally and figuratively. He does that by engaging them on a creative level, like when he took his class on a field trip to the NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics. The center showed his students what its like to be an astronaut. They also viewed a simulated space mission to Mars.

Alejandro Mundo has directly inspired his students both with his teaching methods, and with his own example of success.

In fact, his students love him so much that they created the “Mundology Club”, a club dedicated to STEM fields–and an obvious tribute to their favorite teacher.

“I couldn’t have this opportunity in my country,” said one of Mundo’s students, Dominican-born Jorge Fernandez, about the opportunity for his name to “travel” to Mars. “I feel like our teacher made that possible. It’s really important for us Latinos to get into it, because, basically, we can do a lot.”

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Things That Matter

Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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