By Paul Ingvaldsen
English education major Amber Bayardo, 22, told a story beginning with tragedy when her younger brother who died from a cardiac virus and her mother became unable to provide support physically or emotionally. Bayardo needed to be taught simple life instructions like discipline and integrity. Living out of her mother’s car, she struggled with caring for her family.
She was influenced by gang members and dealt drugs trying to understand her mother’s condition.
“By law, I was in her custody, but in reality I was in ‘street custody,’” she wrote.
Nevertheless, Bayardo remained in high school doing the minimal amount of work, but passed the high school exit exam. “Graduation was a ticket to the rest of my life.” she wrote.
Calling her enrollment at LBCC “a life-changing experience,” Bayardo joined the student body in the Fall of 2011. “I really hit rock bottom when I got to city college,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Everyone had their own hopes and dreams, but I really didn’t. I met a few great professors who helped me identify the character I had built from my personal experiences and failures.”
Bayardo was encouraged to create a ‘Dream Book.’ “I drew a picture of myself in a cap and gown. It gave me a vision to believe in,” she said.
“After the first year of suffering in college, I still had average grades, but life was giving me another shot at being a student.”
Applying skills learned the hard way; Bayardo joined Alpha Omega and began studying the bible. We have men and women on campus who are actually a part of a Christian ministry. There are about 50 members who witness for Jesus Christ.”
Eventually she rose to a leadership position. “I began to help lead the club, meeting four days a week in addition to serving the community,” she said.
“My circumstances no longer shaped me. No matter how dysfunctional life was for me at home or at work, I found opportunity to put my role as a student first.”
Bayardo learned how empowering a college education can be. “It became a light onto my feet, leading to a world of opportunity.” she said. “My brother’s death and mother’s sickness were only merits on the wings I used to fly higher in education. Today, I am fighting my hardest to master the English language and become a college professor.”
“She’s really developed as a writer. She’s working with the Puente Program to make sure she takes the courses that she must have to transfer and maybe she’ll come back and be a writer,” counselor Sophia Beas said.
Bayardo sees her role as impacting future student’s lives, teaching them they are not bound to the struggle “Because of education they are set free from any life situation that seems hopeless,” she said.