Luz Berrios-Tavarez

A train brought me from Chicago to Connecticut. But my education at the Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum brought me from despair to success.

My arrival here was preceded by a life full of difficult circumstances. My father abandoned our family when I was just 5 years old. By the age of 17, I lost my mother to cancer. I lost all contact with my brother after he became addicted to cocaine.

Up until the last year of my mother’s life, I was a very good student at a high school composed predominately of white students and faculty. But when my mother was dying, I found it difficult to maintain my studies and my grades. Consequently, I decided to pay a visit to my guidance counselor. I really wanted to graduate with the rest of my class. As I described my plight to her, she said to me, “You should drop out Sweetie; the odds are against you.” I was devastated. I felt rejected. At that point I believed that I had no choice but to drop out, so I did.

No mother, no school, no ambitions, no hope, and no future. That was my reality. One day I made the call that would change my life forever; I called my relatives living in Hartford. Overnight I received an envelope containing a one-way train ticket with a note that read: “It is all up to you now”. I packed my belongings. I said goodbye to Chicago and hello to Hartford.

Now my aunt and uncle had the challenge of fitting seven people in a two bedroom apartment with ONE bathroom. But one thing we Puerto Ricans know how to do is to fit a lot of people into a car or an apartment. We Puerto Ricans are ingenious that way; we know how to make a tight-knit family fit even tighter

After my aunt told me about the CPRF, I decided to check it out. I was interested in enrolling in a GED class to prepare myself for the GED exam. I passed the GED exam with flying colors and enrolled in every program offered at the Forum. The organization’s first student council elected me as secretary of the student body. In June of 1990 I graduated from the Business and Computer Skills Training Program. Just before I accepted the certificate of completion, Rosaida gave me an offer that I could not refuse: to be her Administrative Assistant.

One other unforeseen benefit of attending class at the Forum was meeting the man who would become my husband. He was a student of the Business and Computer Skills Training program at the Forum and became the first student council president. We will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary in August. We have two beautiful children.

To say my life has greatly improved since being part of the Forum would be an understatement. My career began at the Forum. To date I have never been unemployed.

The CPRF offers not only the keys but the doors of opportunity. There are many who are oppressed by the circumstances in their lives just like I was. I urge you to continue working to ensure that resources like The CPRF are available to help people throughout our community. Together we can all make a difference.

Thank you!