Kiara Lopez is a 9-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who arrived to Miami with her mother, Maria Lopez, in search of a better life. She recently won a contest for a book she wrote titled “‘La Gran Travesía De Mi Mamá Y Yo,” or “Me And My Mom’s Great Journey,” which describes their arduous immigration story when entering the U.S. As Kiara herself explained to Univision, “God told me to write it… [I knew] it would make my mom cry.”

This year, Kiara was chosen to be a part of the Miami Dade College-founded program Pages for All Ages, which pairs 12 children of Latino migrant families with college students.

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In the program, the mentors help the children make their very own book. The child authors are given the chance to improve their literary skills, as well as express their unique story — just like Kiara did. In her case, she focused on her mom, who currently works hard as a fieldworker, as well as their challenges crossing the Río Bravo.

This is what inspired Kiara to write and illustrate the prize-winning book

9-year-old Kiara recalled to Univision how God inspired her to write her handmade book, explaining, “God told me, ‘Write the book, your mom is going to cry [when she reads it].” She was right — interviews with her mother show how proud she is of her, tearing up while expressing her hopes of her daughter’s studies affording her a better life. The mother told the outlet she always tells Kiara, “Study a lot, I don’t want you to work like me. You can study in this country.”

In fact, the student described how her mother “cried” when she was born, because she didn’t want her to have the same life. That’s exactly the reason they immigrated, even though the mother had to leave her two other children in Guatemala. Kiara’s book tells the story of their immigration journey, with passages like, “There was a lady named Maria… She was pregnant… She then gave birth to Kiara… [She] wanted to move to the U.S.”

Meanwhile, illustrations include a front cover with the U.S. and Guatemalan flags interlocking. Inside, you can see how Kiara drew herself and her mom in matching outfits outside in a flower field.

Kiara and her mother’s journey to the U.S. was difficult, and the child still remembers the challenges

As Kiara described in her book, she still remembers how arduous their journey was leaving their Guatemalan homeland for the U.S. As so many immigrants can attest to, their decision to cross to the United States was life-threatening. The child explained how her mother had to hold her tight when they crossed the Río Bravo, to make sure Kiara didn’t drown. “She grabbed me tight so the river wouldn’t take me.”

Meanwhile, her mother described how Kiara radiates positivity. The child tells her, “Be calm, mamá, everything will be fine when I am older.” Lopez works in a field to support her three children, where she found out about her daughter winning the contest.

By the end of the program, the kids presented their books at the New Authors Ceremony on the college campus. While some wrote about family traditions, others chose to write about their personal stories instead. No matter the case, programs like these are the backbone of building up our comunidad — and amazing kids like Kiara will surely attest to that later in life.