skip to Main Content
Flourishing Through Failure.


vanessa story photo

At the 2017 Aurora public schools midyear graduation a trembling, vulnerable and resilient voice delivered a speech to her graduating class. Fighting through her nerves and inner critics Vanessa Williams Lopez Marmol did something she is grown accustomed to; fighting through the hard things to see the Good. This is her story..

Hello everyone, buenas tardes a todos,

I want to begin today, by thanking all of the people that have supported me in my journey to reach one of my goals, graduating high school early.

I want to thank my math teacher Mr. Thompson

My counselor Mrs. Henry

My college advisor Ms. Lopez

My gym teacher Ms. Farmer

My ELD teacher from middle school Mrs. Kelle

My advocate Mr. Cornelius

My boyfriend and his family

And my friends.

Thank you all.


This is a big accomplishment for me. To be graduating early, and talking to you about my story. This is something I never could have pictured for myself.

My name is Vanessa Williams Lopez Marmol. My family is from El Salvador, and I am one of 6 girls.

Since I was a young girl, I had to learn the value of hard work. We saw our dad battling with alcohol abuse, and did not financially support us.

My mom had to work twice as hard and would sell clothes on the streets; she sold lottery tickets to friends and would leave for the day to sell clothes to people who lived outside the city.

Her motivation to work long hours was her six daughters.

My unbreakable mother, pretended to say that “Everything was going to be ok.” But we knew she needed help.

I was five years old when my older sisters and I stopped attending school and began to sell clothes on the streets with my mom.

We had to help her because we needed it to survive.

She wanted us to go to school, but she couldn’t afford it. In El Salvador children have to pay to go to school. We could barely afford to eat, let alone school. So we helped her.

It crushed my mom to see her girls not get an education.

Since I was the only one who was born in the United States, when I was twelve, she decided to send me to live with my Auntie in the US to receive an education and live a better life.

The transition from El Salvador to the United States was hard.

Being away from my parents

Living in a new country

Speaking the language

And adapting was hard for twelve year old me.


My Auntie wasn’t as supportive as I thought and at school my classmates would bully me.

Since I didn’t have my parents, they would call me an “Orphan” or would make jokes about me because of my accent.

I began to feel alone.

And I began to believe what my classmates would say.

They would tell me that I wouldn’t be successful because I didn’t have my parents. They also told me my parents sent me away because I wasn’t worth it.

I began to believe them.

And I saw myself as a failure and fell into depression.

I asked myself at one point, “Who does need me?”

It wasn’t until I met my ELD teacher from North Middle School.

She noticed that I always sat in the back of the classroom, and when we would do group work, I was afraid to make contact.

One day she told me she wanted to talk to me, and have lunch with me.

She opened up to me about her story.

She asked me about mine, and I didn’t share.

She asked about my parents, and then I began to cry.

After that I shared my story.

She gave me advice and told me that


“People will try to break you, and make you feel less, but those are the people inside of themselves that feel less. You have potential.”


She would always compare me to an unfixed light. If you just turn it to the right, you will shine. If you allow people to turn you left, you won’t shine. Always shine. And maybe your parents aren’t here, but they are always here in spirit.”

I felt safe with her and would continue to open up to her and use her as a resource to help me feel not alone.

From that point on, I began to build confidence within myself.

I have been told by my boyfriend, counselors and teachers that I am fearless.

I stand here today, believing it.


I stand here today, graduating high school early.

I look back and remember the people who had bullied me and doubted me,

I made myself believe that the negative things other people said about me was the truth.

I see myself in the mirror today and see my growth.

I have come a long way.

All of my hard-work,

Being a full-time student at Hinkley High School

Then riding the bus to work my full-time job at Chipotle from 3 to 11pm.

Then doing this over and over again, and still have the capacity to graduate early and be accepted to a university.

This is a good feeling.

I am proud of myself.

Following the theme of today’s graduation, I am reclaiming my education and dreams.

I will continue to fight for my dreams of graduating college and become a professional mechanical engineer.

Thank you everyone for listening to my story. I hope to inspire the new graduates and the Aurora community to continue to believe in yourselves and to not allow people to take away your light.

I always reflect on the wise words from Albert Einstein,

“Success comes from curiosity, concentration, perseverance and self-criticism.”

×Close search