Amanda’s Story – buildOn Alumni Flourish
“buildOn was really something that impacted my life in high school for the greater good. It helped me when I went off to college; it gave me that endurance to just keep fighting. To keep moving on.”
– Amanda Perez, buildOn Alumna
The relationship between Amanda Perez and her mother had always been difficult. Amanda often lived with others, her grandmother or friends, while her mother focused on her own needs. Then, when Amanda was 14, she came down with severe pneumonia and was hospitalized. When she recovered she found out that while she had been fighting her illness; her mother had moved halfway across the world to the West Bank with her new husband. She didn’t even tell Amanda goodbye. Without a parent to support her, Amanda spent her high school years transitioning from one place to the next, sometimes living with family and friends, much of the time being on her own.
“If it wasn’t for buildOn I’m not sure where I would be right now.”
– Amanda Perez
During her junior year, a teacher at her Chicago high school introduced Amanda to buildOn. The program provided Amanda with a much needed community and an escape from the realities of her life. Through buildOn, Amanda focused her energy on making a difference, instead of being angry at her situation. Amanda’s first service project with buildOn was at a thrift store where she helped people in need by being a “personal shopper.”
“This project meant so much to me because I remember going to similar places growing up,” Amanda says. “It was great to be able to give customers dignity and respect by giving them a nice place to shop just like everyone else. buildOn helped me realize that even though there were times I just wanted to give up, I had the power to stand tall, and that I still had the power to help people.”
Today, Amanda is thriving. She is employed full-time, is newly married and is in her senior year in college where she is studying to become a counselor so she can continue to help others.
“If it wasn’t for buildOn I’m not sure where I would be right now. The absence of my family and homelessness during my junior and senior year made for a very dark time in my life, and buildOn helped motivate me to keep pushing onward,” Amanda says. “To be active in the community and to focus on the issues people endure daily across the globe made my problems seem so insignificant and my blessing so bountiful. I am so grateful for the beautiful impact buildOn had in my life and the gift to be exposed to a world outside my own.”