This Is Just The Beginning

By Jessica Alcalde  |   From : Cuba  |   School : Everglades High School

My name is Jessica Alcalde. I am 15 years old and a sophomore at Everglades High School. I was born on January 2nd, 2006, in Holguin, Cuba. I came to the United States five years ago with my mom, dad, sister, and grandpa. Five years ago, my life changed.

April 16, 2016

It was 4:00 AM when my mom woke me up. I was at my grandparents’ house. The whole house was chaos. My mom was screaming at my sister and me. My dad was running around, making sure we didn’t forget anything. My grandpa was singing at the top of his lungs, and there I was, 10-year-old me, confused but excited. We were leaving for the U.S.

I was excited because I would see my uncle, aunt, and cousins, but as soon as it was time to leave for the airport, all that happiness went away. I hugged my grandparents goodbye and, at that moment, I started sobbing. I realized I was leaving behind my childhood, my grandparents’ house that I grew up in, my toys, and all of my friends. I knew my parents wanted a better life for all of us, but it hurts to leave everything behind as a kid.

I remember setting foot in Miami International Airport and being amazed by everything around me. It was so different from what I had grown up seeing. My next memory is running towards my uncle and aunt and hugging them for a long time. We were yelling in the middle of the airport, which I’m sure was very annoying, but we didn’t care, we were happy.

Four months later

School started. I remember being excited to meet new people and make friends, but that all turned into fear as soon as I got to class. I was scared. I felt out of place. I didn’t speak the language. I was the new girl while everyone knew each other. Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to adapt, and I started to understand this new lifestyle that I had to get used to. Now, I look back, and I am so grateful for the help I got from my teacher, Mrs. Dreyer. She was able to translate for me and help me with the work. She ended up leaving the school mid-year and, at that moment when a new teacher who didn’t speak Spanish came in, I was left alone with barely any help. It was now up to me to figure out how to communicate and do well in school.

During my middle school years, I finally adapted to the school system and made new friends that were just like me. The next few years were good, but nothing remarkable happened in my life. My parents got stable jobs, and we were able to live comfortably. My grandpa that stayed in Cuba, came many times to visit us, and we also traveled to see the rest of our family, but unfortunately, something huge was coming that stopped us from seeing each other.


The pandemic hit. We all thought that it was just a virus that was going to come and go and that we were going to go back to Cuba to visit my family. When we saw how bad it was getting and everything was closing down, reality hit. I had no idea when I was going to see my grandparents again. Not only that but having to adapt to online school and not being able to socialize brought me to a place where I was not happy. Spending time with myself during the 2020-2021 school year made me realize many things that I had been hiding or ignoring. My self-esteem and confidence were very low. I had no motivation to do anything, and I didn’t see the purpose or where my life was going. To the people around me, I seemed normal. My regular happy self who always jokes around but, on the inside, I felt empty, like I had no drive in me. I realized that I was not okay. I decided to bottle up my feelings and deal with them myself because I didn’t want to worry my family. This is something that I am still working on today. I’m trying to accept who I am and love that person.

October 2021

After two years of being careful and taking precautions, my grandma died after getting Covid. She died in Cuba and never came here after trying to get a Visa for years. It had been three years since we visited them, and since then, all we could do was a video call her to see how she was doing. When she got Covid, they took her to the hospital, and things started getting worse. My parents somehow got in touch with the people at the hospital, and they had other family members update us on how she was doing. During all of this, I was very hopeful and optimistic that she would get better, and I didn’t think about what could happen. One morning, I woke up to the news that she had passed away. At that moment, I realized how I barely talked to her and how I never in my life told her how much I loved her. That morning I got up and hugged my dad. I had never seen him cry. He never showed that side of him. Now, I look back at our photos together, and I hope she is doing better now and isn’t hurting.


All those days, good or bad, sad or happy, have been part of my story, and as much as it hurt at the time, I now know that hardships are part of life. I am still figuring out who I am and what I want my life to look like. Part of me is still that little girl who stepped foot in a new country. Part of me is still scared, happy, nervous, and excited for the life that’s ahead of me. Part of me wishes to go back in time and live my childhood memories over and over. As hard as some of those moments were, I am still glad that I got to find myself and meet people along the way who make me happy and are there when I need them. My journey is not over, this is just the beginning.

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