Arriving in America: Overcoming Challenges and Adversity

During last month’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration, we spoke with successful ACPS alumni about the challenges of adjusting to a new way of life. We asked first and second-generation Americans how they overcame adversity. Here are three of their stories:

Jose Sanchez
International Security Specialist
T.C. Williams Class of 2005

Jose Sanchez made the journey from El Salvador to the United States when he was fourteen years old. By fifteen, he was looking after himself. He recalls being distant from friends and avoiding getting in trouble at school. Learning English was one of his greatest challenges. “Don’t give up,” Sanchez advises. “Being by myself this whole time actually made me endure even more to become the person that I am.”


Evelin Urrutia

Executive Director, Tenants & Workers United
T.C. Williams Class of 1995

Evelin Urrutia is dedicated to ensuring that opportunities exist for all of Alexandria’s youth. This passion is directly related to her own story. She left El Salvador and arrived in the United States six years after her mother. She recalls the trauma of not only adjusting to a new language and customs but also to a new family life. She fought for bilingual education and has excelled in our community. Her advice is to “hold your head high and stay focused on your goals.”

Brian Vargas
Guidehouse Advisory Manager
T.C. Williams Class of 2003

Brian Vargas’s parents migrated from Peru. Their transition has helped shape his life. Growing up, he often served as a translator of both language and customs. Their journey has deeply impacted Vargas. It has allowed him to reach out to those around him, informing the decisions that have lead to his success.

ACPS, Alexandria City High School, Alumni Profile, Video