In the early 1900s, my great-great-grandmother Luiza immigrated from Italy to Brazil. It wasn’t until 1995 that someone in the family decided to travel outside of the country: that was my mom. At the age of 24, my mom decided to study English in the United States. Though she initially intended to stay for only one year, she received a parting gift from my grandparents. They handed my mom a small crucifix statue that fit in the palm of her hand, and they said “This is to protect you. Whenever you need it, just pray with it.” It was the only thing given to my mom before her trip to the U.S. Then, 4 months into her studies, my mom met my dad. Eight months later, as her year in the U.S. came to a close, she had to make a decision: return to Brazil or stay for love. Fast forward 5 years, my mom hadn’t finished college, my parents were married, and I was born. Unfortunately, 8 years later, my parents divorced and my mom was left a single parent with no college degree. Through times like those, I would constantly see this small statue. Though it was through this project that I came to discover she has always had the statue with her. To this day, she still carries it wherever she goes. Over two decades later – despite my mom’s age and frequent difficulty with the English language in an academic setting – my mom has returned to college with hopes of pursuing social work. I am incredibly proud of her, and I know for a fact that when she graduates, her little statue will be with her.
– Izabella Pereira