At the age of 15, Juan Arnaldo left Guatemala and began a dangerous journey of more than 2,200 miles on foot to Phoenix, AZ. Along the way, he endured threats, fear of arrest in Mexico, and the incredible pain of having lost all of his toenails because his shoes were too tight.
Juan Arnaldo’s journey actually started years earlier. At only eight years old he was thrown out of his parent’s abusive and violent home. Living on the streets and hungry, he worked any odd job available instead of going to school. At night, he slept on buses. Determined to have more, Juan Arnaldo taught himself to read Spanish while selling newspapers.
As he got older, the constant crime and violence he witnessed was unbearable. Fearing for his life, Juan knew he had to leave to survive. He hadn’t planned to head north, but his only hope was to join his older brother somewhere in New York.
Ascentria was there for Juan Arnaldo when he arrived in the US. Committed to learning and self-improvement, he asked for a foster family that only spoke English. He felt lucky to find a good family. His foster dad inspired him to learn mixed martial arts, which helped him build both his physical and mental strength. Juan Arnaldo worked hard to catch up academically and he graduated high school with honors! Today, he is a senior at Assumption College, graduating in May, 2020. He credits his Ascentria social workers and foster family for guiding and supporting him.
Juan Arnaldo’s childhood experiences shaped his dream to become a police officer and to help protect others. He is majoring in criminology, sociology, and Spanish in college and now plans to pursue a career at the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration. First, however, he wants to give back to the country that has given him so much. Now that he is a citizen, Juan Arnaldo plans to enlist in the U.S. Navy and hopes to become an officer.
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