Readers who found a way out of poverty - Albuquerque Journal

Readers who found a way out of poverty

FOR THE RECORD: An error regarding the role of the nonprofit group Results was introduced during the editing of a submission by reader Andy Trujillo in this UpFront column. The group offers no programs that directly help individuals but instead lobbies for policies intended to end hunger and poverty, including some programs that were important to Trujillo.

This is the second of three UpFront columns in which I step aside to let Journal readers – your neighbors – tell their own brief stories about positive lessons they learned while growing up in poverty and the difference it made in their lives.

While each person’s life and situation is unique, I hope presenting these stories offers inspiration to all and perhaps some hope for those who might be going through similar circumstances.

The final column with selected stories will be published on Dec. 18. To read the already published stories, click here. To read the column in which I invited readers to send in their stories, click here.

Andy Trujillo, who grew up in a poor family in the South Valley, credits support from friends and church with helping him lift himself out of poverty. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Andy Trujillo, who grew up in a poor family in the South Valley, credits support from friends and church with helping him lift himself out of poverty. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Quelites in the Valley

There were many days when my younger brother and I would look at my grandma and wonder why we couldn’t eat dinner. We didn’t understand her struggle in trying to provide for us.

I understand now that food stamps helped us get through most of those times, but it wasn’t always enough. My brother and I would often climb trees to gather eggs just for a meal. We’d walk the streets of the South Valley picking quelites to give the beans some extra flavor. (Note: Quelites is a spinach-like wild green plant.)

We lived in poverty, but it was a result of at least a few generations of addiction, abuse and general neglect; a hole that some in my family have yet to climb out of. I got out because I had support. My support came from great friends, church and urgency to get out. So I got out.

Today I have a wonderful job that I love, and most importantly, I have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter who will not have to go through what I did. I am also making my way through college while working full time and volunteering with RESULTS, a group with programs that helped me so much as I was growing up.

Now, I want to be an inspiration and voice for the many children and teens out there who feel like they’re at a dead end; something that poverty brings and something that can be stopped.

– Andy Trujillo

A whole new world

Garth Graves, with his dog, Jasper, in his Rio Rancho home, says he grew up poor in an old ranch house near Roswell that had no indoor plumbing. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)
Garth Graves, with his dog, Jasper, in his Rio Rancho home, says he grew up poor in an old ranch house near Roswell that had no indoor plumbing. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

My two brothers and I grew up during the 1940s and ’50s in an old ranch house west of Roswell with an outhouse and no indoor plumbing.

As a young kid, this didn’t bother me much, but as I moved into middle school and high school, I felt more and more alienated and different from my classmates from town.

Despite this, both my brothers and I finished high school and worked our way through college. A number of things accounted for us finishing school, while many kids we knew who grew up under similar circumstances dropped out.

Perhaps because our parents had to quit school after the seventh grade, they realized the value of an education and encouraged us to do well in school. They often took us to the public library in town to check out books.

They also took us to church, where we were able to meet successful people. One of our Sunday school teachers was a contractor who took us for rides in his Beechcraft Bonanza airplane. This opened up a whole new world for me.

Garth Graves, right, at age 13, and his brother, Glen, sit on their family’s 1937 Ford truck in the 1950s. Graves says he and both of his brothers worked their way through college. (Courtesy of Garth Graves)
Garth Graves, right, at age 13, and his brother, Glen, sit on their family’s 1937 Ford truck in the 1950s. Graves says he and both of his brothers worked their way through college. (Courtesy of Garth Graves)

Finally, from an early age I enjoyed roaming around the grasslands that surrounded our house, and this led me to a lifelong love of nature and a desire to study biology in college.

I think it is critical for anyone, especially anyone born into poverty, to develop a passion for something that provides direction and purpose to their life, and makes it seem worth the effort to try to realize their dreams.

– Garth Graves

Principal lends a hand

When I was growing up, during the Great Depression, anybody who lived in a house with a living room and a private bathroom was well-to-do. For our family of eight, there was neither.

When I graduated after four years of holding down a job and going to high school, my principal offered me a scholarship, a job and a ride to school – State Teachers College.

I became a teacher. So did my husband – no longer poor.

– Laverne Rison

Education is key

“Education can lift you out of poverty,” was my mother’s mantra to us, all her life. She was a widow at 37 years of age, with five young children to support. Penniless and alone, she raised us all.

My brother Ed went to Syracuse University. Jack graduated from the University of Colorado. My sisters both went to Albany State, and I graduated with my doctorate from the University of New Mexico. My mother was proud of each of us!

Although she was occasionally “nervous” about some of my work-assignments, which took me to Kenya, Nepal, Yemen Arab Republic and West Pakistan, she felt I was making a contribution to others, and that too, made her proud. “It’s good to give back,” she said.

She had refused to accept financial help from us, even to her dying days. “Your accomplishments are all the payback I need,” she’d say.

She lived in good health until her 89th birthday. The last week of her life, she whispered to me. “Don’t mourn for me when I die. I’ve lived a good life.”

Of course we mourned for her. I still do.

– Jim Hughes

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to editorial page editor Dan Herrera at 823-3810 or dherrera@abqjournal.com.

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