Elisabeth Barragan began her teaching career by teaching English to her Spanish-speaking parents, and soon was tutoring a younger brother in math — including meeting with his teachers to get extra worksheets.
Discovering her joy in teaching and being a role model, she moved on to teaching younger persons at the East Palo Alto Boys & Girls Club.
Her efforts and overall academic performance has won her the coveted Youth of the Year Award from the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula.
At a ceremony, Barragan narrowly edged out two other young persons who were nominated for the award – a nomination is itself considered an honor by club officials, who described all three as "outstanding examples" of young persons who overcame significant challenges.
The other nominees are Alex Perez, who overcame a serious problem of out-of-control fighting and other behavior, and Cherise Hunter, who survived a nightmare childhood of a gambling-addict father, a divorce, poverty and life-threatening asthma from a mold-infested house.
Both have become role models for younger children, community volunteers. Perez dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer and helping develop energy-efficient yet powerful cars, and Hunter has a vision of becoming a book publisher after attending a university, perhaps Stanford, because of the value books have had for her, particularly the Harry Potter series. She also is interested in journalism.
Each finalist gave a brief biographical speech to the nearly 100 persons attending the judging and ceremony last week at the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula headquarters, 401 Pierce Road, Menlo Park.
Silence fell as Hunter choked back emotion when she recounted her early years of illness and poverty before her mother relocated the family to Oakland and a mold-free home.
Perez described his personal struggle to overcome his rebellious behavior that was disrupting his school and family and threatening his father's health.
Barragan, a senior at Eastside College Preparatory High School, where she serves on the Student Council's steering committee for special events and is a member of the Step By Step Service Club that works on projects to clean East Palo Alto and the environment. She also plays on the school soccer team.
At the Boys & Girls Club she assists youngsters with literacy programs.
Her vision is to become a radiologist – inspired by seeing images of her younger brother Jose's broken arm.
She continues to tutor Jose in math and even with defensive soccer techniques for his playing with the AYSO soccer team.