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A Journey of Resilience and Growth: Celebrating 25 Years Since My Arrival to the United States

Today marks a significant milestone in my life – the 25th anniversary of my arrival in Miami, Florida. Two and a half decades ago, I transitioned from a comfortable life in Colombia, complete with a private school education, a spacious home, and a circle of family and friends, to a one-bedroom shared apartment with just my mom and dad. Even my older sister opted to stay behind for her schooling, leaving me to navigate this new chapter alone.

I vividly recall my challenges as I didn't know the language. The first words I uttered to my mom after school were, "Nooooo mami, no entiendo, ni papa, ni pollo, ni perro" – a humorous testament to the language barrier I encountered. Despite the hardships, I never truly acknowledged this day until now. Blessed with a software engineer dad who came with a work visa, I still received everything I needed and was surrounded by love. However, the emotional struggles were real. Due to the type of visa, it would be nearly five years before I could visit my family back in Colombia.

During those years, I became "la prima gringa" during summers in Colombia to the new girl in Miami. Becky G says "No soy de aqui, ni de alla" (I'm not from here, nor from there). That's how many of us first-generation immigrants can feel. The transition wasn't just cultural; it was a journey of hustle that began even in 1st grade. By 4th grade, I was out of ESOL and into honors courses, doing homework independently and translating for my parents.

The guilt of not being with my family, missing the food, and the Colombian culture weighed heavily on me. Many Christmases were spent with just the three of us. Unlike my childhood, where I waited until the early hours of the madrugada (sunrise) for my parents to finish their celebrations. It took time to accept that those moments were in the past. My healing began in my freshman year of college when I joined Children Beyond Our Borders. It took that long to understand that my journey here was not a coincidence; it was a calling. My efforts would later help five youths graduate from a university in Colombia through our organization. There have been so many more accomplishments since then, and I have every mistake, experience, and success to thank the 33-year-old I am today.

Reflecting on my growth, I am proud of my strides. Today, I want to honor the little 8-year-old Andrea, who boarded that plane with just one doll, excited to reunite with her dad. Over the years, my children have visited Colombia annually since they were six months old, and their connection to our roots is strong.

Without further ado, I am pleased to announce my official website and consulting business for PALANTE Nonprofits, LLC,we are in the business of moving communities forward.” At the heart of our approach are advisory services and tailored training programs offering customized training for your organization. I am also available for speaking opportunities on compliance, tech for nonprofits, fundraising, storytelling, and more. All our services will be offered in English and Spanish, combining targeted approaches with cultural insights for effective, interactive solutions that drive actionable outcomes for your organization.

Here's to the next chapter and the ever-present spirit of moving forward. Pa'lante mi gente. Estoy lista.

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