Brenda, 17, plans to become a public health researcher focusing on sexually transmitted infections in low-income communities. She owes her new aspirations to her mentor Maximilian who introduced her to the varied career paths in health care. He specializes in global health at a government agency. Until a few months ago, Brenda thought she’d become a doctor. That was at the beginning of her experience in LAYC’s Teen Health Promoters program, which trains high school students to be peer health educators and participate in clinical or educational internships with local clinics or hospitals. The program also pairs students with professionals in the field, such as Maximilian, to support the students’ exploration of real-world careers in health care.
Brenda’s internship at La Clinica Del Pueblo is all about the workings of the front office, where she answers phones, greets patients, and observes other front office functions, such as medical billing. She is especially enjoying being able to help Spanish-speaking patients.
“I really like interacting with patients. I like to help people, especially those that need Spanish translation. It can be frustrating to not be able to explain what’s wrong to a doctor. I translate for my mom and want to continue to do that for others,” -Brenda
It is surprising to learn that Brenda only came to the U.S. from El Salvador three years ago, not speaking any English. Her mother left El Salvador when Brenda was four years old; her father had migrated to the U.S. even earlier when Brenda was only three months old. Brenda grew up with her maternal grandmother.
When Brenda was 13, her grandmother began receiving threats on Brenda’s life from local gangs unless she agreed to make payments, known as renta. “My grandmother was full of fear thinking something would happen to me,” said Brenda. Fearing for Brenda’s life, her grandmother made the hard choice of taking Brenda on the arduous trip to reunite Brenda with her parents in the Washington, DC area. They spent one month and three days crossing deserts and rivers with one destination in mind: safety for Brenda.
Brenda and her grandmother made it to the U.S. safely, and soon after, Brenda was enrolled in school and developing her relationship with her parents. “It was not easy,” she says. “I had to learn a new language, and making new friends was a little bit of a challenge.” As a testament to her resilience and promise as a future public health researcher, Brenda learned English, progressed through school, and is about to graduate from Bell Multicultural High School. She is excited for graduation and going to college in the fall. She will attend Trinity Washington University and pursue a Bachelor’s degree in biology.