Chapter One: Who were you?
September 26, 2005 at 7:00 am at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. I was born and brought to life by my mother. As I grew up, my parents taught me what’s right and what’s wrong. At the age of 5, I was at the Dollar Store with my mother and I stole a Hershey Chocolate Bar. I ate the chocolate bar later on, but didn’t notice I had chocolate all over my face. Sadly, I was caught. While I was growing up, I became a very shy person at school, and I wouldn’t really talk a lot. Back then in elementary school, I would hang out with my guy friends because the girls wouldn’t like me because I was “different “ than the rest of the girls. I learned that I like sports, especially basketball. I just like how you have to be aggressive and make shots and it’s just really fun. In 4th grade, I started to talk to people and kind of eased out of being shy. This allowed me to make a group of friends. I later distanced myself from people because stuff at home was going on. At the age of 9, I discovered that my parents were going to be separated. This was my worst fear. I felt like I was alone. No one knew what I was going through, so I felt hopeless. Later on, my dad had to move out. It was the hardest moment of my life because I loved my dad so much and I still do. But I didn’t want to see him walk out the door because we had so many fun memories. I thought of when he said goodbye, and it all happened when I was 9 years old. As I moved on from that, I focused on what still made me be happy. It was being around people who loved me, and aside from that, I focused on playing sports such as soccer and basketball.
Chapter Two: How have you grown as a scholar?
I believe that I have grown as a scholar. In elementary school, I was struggling in math and ELA and other subjects because I didn’t understand how important school was. When I first joined the Father Sauer Academy, my grades for math and ELA weren’t the best because I was in the habit of not doing my work at all. I didn’t care about grades until I figured out that I wanted to go to SI, and I realized that SI has high standards. The more I learned at FSA, the more I grew in academics and my growth mindset.
When I first took my MAP test, the score I got wasn’t the best. I still had a lot of progress to go. I knew I had to set goals for myself to be challenged and to grow. And so the next time I took the MAP test in trimester 2, I would be ready, and I felt ready. When I got my score back, I felt like I did better, but also it wasn’t enough. I remembered being around my peers listening to what they were saying about their scores. They were excited and they felt proud. I didn’t feel successful. I felt like I failed myself. At one point, I thought giving up made it easier because I felt like no one understood what I was thinking.
I decided to talk to my brother, Armando, about my grades and what was going on through my head in school. He gave me some feedback. He told me that I should start taking myself more seriously in school. Armando said that I was really lucky to go to the Father Sauer Academy because it is an opportunity that he didn’t have-- he went to a charter school. It felt good to go to him because he was the only person that I felt like believed in me. And to this day I still go to him. I took my brother's advice and started to try harder in school by staying in all of my recess working with the teachers.
At the end of 8th grade, the Coronavirus ruined my year, sadly. I remember the last day I was at school everybody was wondering if we would have school or not because public schools had already shut down. At the end of the day, the teachers announced that we would not be having school for the next couple of weeks. Everyone was excited because they didn’t like school. Fast forward to the next month, we were still quarantined. Everyone complained about how much they miss school. I was complaining about homework and how stressed I was the first week of digital learning. And then the day came-- the day I was going to find out if I got accepted to SI. I remember it was 3:55 pm with only 5 minutes left till SI was going to send out the letter. I was on FaceTime with my classmates and we were very nervous. Once 4:00 hit, we quickly refreshed the website and entered our passwords. I remember the loading sign kept making me so anxious to the point I was jumping around my room hoping my iPad would work faster. Then, it hit. I finally got accepted! I was very surprised and I was also so happy I went and ran to my mother and showed her the letter. She was very proud of me and gave me a big hug.
Chapter Three: How have you grown as a person?
How I grew as a person was by my mindset. I used to not be a really positive person, but I’ve learned that I should always have some positivity in me. I also learned about other people in my community, in what they go through and to have empathy for them. So many people go through so much and it feels like not even one person knows. Another way I’ve grown as a person is not being afraid to care a lot about a goal. Ever since 6th grade, when I realized I wanted to go to SI, I cared so much about this goal. For example, I’ve achieved my goals of making it into SI and being the person I want to be. In fact, another way I have grown is persistence. I have worked super hard for my grades even when I nearly felt like giving up, I never did. No matter what, I put my all in all things. Another way I have grown is in my self confidence. Not being afraid to be honest with people even if they get mad is something I’ve worked on a lot. I’ve been in different friends groups to see who I like to be around. I’ve been with my silly friends and also my sporty friends. It was hard for me to hang out with them because they wouldn’t hangout with each other. However, I decided not to choose. I figured, why not be friends with everyone? One other way I have grown as a person is developing empathy and understanding not only for my friends and family, but also for people around the world. For example, in 7th grade the class and I read a book called Enrique’s Journey. This book is a tale of risk, courage, love and danger. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, leaves him and his sister, Belky, behind in Honduras in order to go to the United States. Lourdes leaves her children because she needs to make money to feed them and allow them to finish school. This book really stood out to me because my mother did most of the things Enrique has done. She got on the “The Beast Train,” and she left my older sister in Honduras with my grandmother, when my sister was 4 and my mother was 20 years old. My mother lived in Mexico for 10 years. My mom then had my older brother in Mexico. When my older brother Armando was 2 years old, they were homeless for a bit.They then found a homeless shelter. Fast forward a bit and my mother found a job where she could afford to feed my older brother. When my mom was around her 30’s, she met my dad. They fell in love and had me. Fast forward 8 years later my mom found a job in San Francisco as a babysitter. It’s the best job she has ever had. It’s been 6 years since she started working with the family she babysits, and she is really grateful for the job. To this day, I will always remember what my mom risked and did for my family and I will always be grateful for her no matter what! She is one of the strongest women I know!
Chapter Four: What are your talents/passions?
One of my passions is painting. I think painting brings out my personality more and my creativity. When I paint, it just makes me feel accomplished, like a certain way to feel happiness, and it releases all my anxiety. It takes my mind off of things.
I think I am a good friend because I'm a good listener. If you are going through anything, I will listen and make you feel like you are not alone. I’m also very patient. I think being patient is important. I’m very caring about people, as I like helping people out and being generous. For example, if someone is feeling down, I will put all my effort into making them feel better and give them positive energy and feedback. It makes me happy to see people have a smile on their faces and just to make them feel special. For example, I tell about 5 people a day that they are beautiful at least. It's a good feeling spreading positivity.
Another passion I have is helping others. I feel like helping others by doing anything that is an act of kindness would make the world a better place. A little act of kindness will make people smile and be happy. In my family, we have a box in our living room that we fill with clothing or toys. When we have lots of clothing that we don’t like or doesn’t fit us any more, we put it in the box. Once we fill it up, we send the box to places that host events for people who live in poverty, such as Honduras.
Chapter Five: What does it all mean for your family?
I asked my mom why she is proud of me going to a college prep school. She said that she wants me to accomplish my goals that I’ve set for myself . She also said that she wants what is best for me, and that I mean a lot to her so she would do her best for me. I asked my brother why he is proud that I am going to a college prep school. He said that it is really good for me and it’s such a great opportunity for me to achieve my goals. He also said that it’s a really excellent school that is going to prepare me for everything.
Chapter Six: Who do you want to be?
I really never knew who I wanted to be because I never thought about my future. At first I wanted to be a police officer, but then I thought, “Come on Gissel, think bigger. Dream big.” I kept thinking about who I wanted to be. It came to me as I was watching Disney Channel on TV, “Why don’t I become an actor?” It looks so much fun being in the movies and shows.
In the end, I want to be a good person. My goal is to make people smile around the world everyday. I want to spread kindness around and to help people who are in need around the world. I like to be generous with things. In the future when I have lots of money, I wouldn’t keep the money all to myself. I would donate it to where help is needed.