A Story From One of Our Step Up for Success Students

Beth-El’s Step Up for Success Scholar Stays Inspired Despite the Challenges

July 2020

“let your light shine before others, 

so that they may see your good works 

and give glory to your Father in heaven.” 

Mark 5:16

Graduations mark the extraordinary achievements of students, their families, and the community. We look forward to celebrating and sharing the inspiring positive energy of what the future may hold. COVID-19 has put a halt in those celebrations. Despite those challenges, we look for creative ways to celebrate graduates and surround them with support as they move on to the next chapters of their lives.  

Below, Beth-El’s Step Up for Success Scholar Larissa Saldana, Lennard High School Graduate, who also made the Dean´s List at Hillsborough Community College Dual Enrollment Program, sums up her experience, shares the gems of knowledge she picked up along the way, and her vision of a way forward into her future. 

“I learned a lot about myself. I have learned that change is a good thing and to not be afraid of it. In my junior year, I decided to leave high school early for college. It was a big step, but in the end, it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I explored new things and met new people.  

In those four years, I learned to appreciate everyone and be thankful for the people who became part of my journey in giving me a hand. In the beginning, my family was the only one that was there for me. Along my journey, I have met a lot of people.  People whom I love and appreciate because they do what they can to help me. 

Cutting myself short was an issue I had at the beginning of my year. I had big dreams but underestimated myself by doubting if I could reach them. I would be the first in my family to go to college. I worried about how I would pay for college and often stressed over the little things. It wasn’t until I went into the Step Up for Success program that I started to believe that my dreams would be possible. While in the program, I learned to not cut myself short, despite what life throws at me or the circumstances. These things should not hold me back, but instead, motivate me to push forward. I learned that it takes dedication to get where I want to be. I worked very hard in high school and in college because I wanted to make sure I could provide for my parents in the future. My parents worked in the sun for many years. I want to be successful enough to make sure that their sacrifices were not for nothing; to make sure I can give them what they gave me. I could never amount to what they have sacrificed for their children, but if I could give back a portion of what they gave me or the world, I would be a happy person. I learned to not take things for granted and do what you want to do. My senior year was cut short due to the pandemic, there were a lot of events I held off until my senior year. This year made me realize to seize the opportunity, life is short, appreciate every moment life has to give. 

Everything is out in the open when I think about the future. Anything could be possible, and my plans can change. I will work hard enough to work in a job that makes me happy, whether that is Nursing or another career that I haven’t planned. If my work makes me happy, then I am sure that my life is successful. The only thing I wish for my future self is to have a job that makes me feel like I am making a difference in someone’s life.”


Our God, we ask and implore you for these graduates. We give thanks for your light that shines from within them. Guide them to walk in your grace in the new stage that they are about to face with enthusiasm and hope. We offer our prayers for a life of victory, success, and prosperity. We pray that you will help them make the best decisions with intelligence, self-esteem, and consistent attitudes. That they always choose the path of honesty and integrity-that their hearts and minds are one with yours: open to all your plans, your purposes, and your values, according to your will. We ask all of this, Lord, as you taught us, in the name of your son Jesus, Amen. 

  The Prayer for Graduates above is an excerpt, translated and adapted from a liturgical prayer based on John 14: 13-14, John 16: 23-24, written in Spanish by Rev. Tamara Leonard Lara, pastor at Nuevo Camino at Beth-El.  The worshipping community at Nuevo Camino prayed the original piece at the drive by graduation celebration on June 7.