This First-Gen Student is Blazing a Trail for Other Young Women in Her Community

Elizabeth Esquivel is driven. She’s the first in her family to graduate high school. The first in her family to graduate from college. And soon she will be the first in her family to study for her Master's degree. Being the first comes with both challenges and rewards – and Elizabeth is embracing both.

“There are always more people to help, more learning methods, more opportunities for growth. I am also driven by my friends and family. Making everyone I love proud as well as acknowledging the fact that there are always people watching and cheering me on, especially my younger siblings is what drives me to pursue what I love, and become the best version of myself,” Elizabeth says.  

Being a first generation Mexican-American, and the eldest daughter of newly-arrived immigrants, taught Elizabeth about responsibility at a young age. While her parents were very busy working to provide for her close-knit family, she played many different roles – tutor, translator, babysitter – while also being a student. As a teenager there were times when she felt overwhelmed and alone. Elizabeth got involved in Girls Inc. of Orange County her freshman year in high school and it provided her with a safe and supportive environment.  

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, through direct service and advocacy. In partnership with schools and at Girls Inc. centers, they focus on the development of the whole girl. In turn each girl learns to value herself, take risks, and discover and develop her inherent strengths. The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and evidence-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. Informed by girls and their families, they also advocate for legislation and policies to increase opportunities and rights for all girls.

Elizabeth felt driven to set a good example for her younger sister and cousins, and the mentorship she received through Girls Inc. helped her chart her own path forward.

“I think that Girls Inc. was really helpful in helping me find who I wanted to be and the kind of person that I wanted to be to other people,” she says.

Girls Inc. also supported Elizabeth on her road to higher education, helping her navigate the complex process for applications and scholarships. With no family members who had been through it themselves, this guidance proved invaluable to Elizabeth. In her final year of high school, Elizabeth was a Girls Inc. National Scholar and was awarded a partial college scholarship.

Elizabeth went on to achieve her undergraduate degree in psychology and criminal justice and will be starting her Master’s program in Clinical Social Work in Fall 2022. Social work is a natural career path for Elizabeth.  She is dedicated to making the lives of those around her better and more equitable. Currently she is working as a youth specialist at a crisis mental health shelter for teenagers and is also a behavioral health technician at a residential treatment facility for mental illness. Elizabeth has a particular interest in the criminal justice system.

“The reason that I'm choosing to work within corrections and help incarcerated people kind of flow back into society is because of family experiences and not really having anybody to support them once they're released,” she says. “And I think it's really important to highlight that mental illness goes hand in hand with incarceration, not only leading up to incarceration, but the worsening of mental illness while incarcerated.”

Elizabeth is clearly making her mark on the world. She attributes a lot of her success to Girls Inc. and their involvement in her formative years. “Girls Inc. changed my life,” she says. So it’s no surprise that Elizabeth finds the time to give back as a mentor and to use her own experiences to encourage and help other young girls, in her own home and beyond.  

“To me, being a mentor means boosting someone up, being a source of support, reminding someone of their potential and their progress,” says Elizabeth.

Learn more about Girls Inc.

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This First-Gen Student is Blazing a Trail for Other Young Women in Her Community

Elizabeth Esquivel is driven. She’s the first in her family to graduate high school. The first in her family to graduate from college. And soon she will be the first in her family to study for her Master's degree. Being the first comes with both challenges and rewards – and Elizabeth is embracing both.

“There are always more people to help, more learning methods, more opportunities for growth. I am also driven by my friends and family. Making everyone I love proud as well as acknowledging the fact that there are always people watching and cheering me on, especially my younger siblings is what drives me to pursue what I love, and become the best version of myself,” Elizabeth says.  

Being a first generation Mexican-American, and the eldest daughter of newly-arrived immigrants, taught Elizabeth about responsibility at a young age. While her parents were very busy working to provide for her close-knit family, she played many different roles – tutor, translator, babysitter – while also being a student. As a teenager there were times when she felt overwhelmed and alone. Elizabeth got involved in Girls Inc. of Orange County her freshman year in high school and it provided her with a safe and supportive environment.  

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, through direct service and advocacy. In partnership with schools and at Girls Inc. centers, they focus on the development of the whole girl. In turn each girl learns to value herself, take risks, and discover and develop her inherent strengths. The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and evidence-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. Informed by girls and their families, they also advocate for legislation and policies to increase opportunities and rights for all girls.

Elizabeth felt driven to set a good example for her younger sister and cousins, and the mentorship she received through Girls Inc. helped her chart her own path forward.

“I think that Girls Inc. was really helpful in helping me find who I wanted to be and the kind of person that I wanted to be to other people,” she says.

Girls Inc. also supported Elizabeth on her road to higher education, helping her navigate the complex process for applications and scholarships. With no family members who had been through it themselves, this guidance proved invaluable to Elizabeth. In her final year of high school, Elizabeth was a Girls Inc. National Scholar and was awarded a partial college scholarship.

Elizabeth went on to achieve her undergraduate degree in psychology and criminal justice and will be starting her Master’s program in Clinical Social Work in Fall 2022. Social work is a natural career path for Elizabeth.  She is dedicated to making the lives of those around her better and more equitable. Currently she is working as a youth specialist at a crisis mental health shelter for teenagers and is also a behavioral health technician at a residential treatment facility for mental illness. Elizabeth has a particular interest in the criminal justice system.

“The reason that I'm choosing to work within corrections and help incarcerated people kind of flow back into society is because of family experiences and not really having anybody to support them once they're released,” she says. “And I think it's really important to highlight that mental illness goes hand in hand with incarceration, not only leading up to incarceration, but the worsening of mental illness while incarcerated.”

Elizabeth is clearly making her mark on the world. She attributes a lot of her success to Girls Inc. and their involvement in her formative years. “Girls Inc. changed my life,” she says. So it’s no surprise that Elizabeth finds the time to give back as a mentor and to use her own experiences to encourage and help other young girls, in her own home and beyond.  

“To me, being a mentor means boosting someone up, being a source of support, reminding someone of their potential and their progress,” says Elizabeth.

Learn more about Girls Inc.

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