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UCSC Grad Overcomes Tragedy to Fulfill Promise

Taken from CBS News –

Commencement – a day of triumph, family, and a promise kept. For Brenda Valadez, Students Rising Above Class of 2013, this was her father’s dream.

“I promised him 10 years ago I would walk the stage and become a successful person,” she said.

The journey to this day began a decade ago. Brenda came to live with her grandparents in the Bay Area to escape relentless bullying. Her father, a single parent, stayed behind in their small hometown in Mexico.

The recent University of California, Santa Cruz graduate shared her father’s words, “I want to give you the whole world, but I can’t give it to you here.”

“I was the only person he had in his life and for him to say it’s better for you to go away,” recalled Brenda. “I owe him my life for it.”

Brenda dedicated her life to education, made high school honor roll, and was determined to be the first in her family to graduate from college.

However, once at the university, she almost quit. “It was very hard for me,” she said. “I think I was homesick and I just thought I didn’t belong there.”

The separation was hard enough. It was soon followed by an unspeakable tragedy.

Not long after she left him behind in Mexico, Brenda’s father was kidnapped. The kidnappers demanded two million pesos as ransom, an impossibility for her family.

“He tried to escape,” she tearfully recalled. “We found out that they broke his legs so he wasn’t able to escape. Next thing you know they took his life away, they wrapped him in a blanket and threw him by the side of the road.”

Brenda might have fallen into an abyss with her grief and homesickness. But with the encouragement from a Students Rising Above mentor, Brenda stayed at school. She joined clubs, got a job, and even studied abroad. In the back of her mind was that promise she made to her father.

Fast forward to her commencement, one speaker told the grads, “Now graduates, you can breathe. Appreciate your memories here at UC Santa Cruz.”

Brenda had even more memories to appreciate on her Graduation Day. The day also happened to fall on Father’s Day.

Perhaps it was no coincidence. “My whole four years, everything was because he always guided me,” she said. “He was my angel and he was there every step of the way.”

Today, life after graduation is looking up. After a tough interview process, Brenda landed a full-time job at a prestigious consulting firm. She says she appreciates the opportunity to learn, to fulfill her eternal promise to her father, and to continue to prove right the wisdom of his fateful decision years ago.


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Pope Francis Endorses Laudato Si’ Pledgeunnamed

To mark the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of the encyclical, our friends at Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) shared news of the launch of a new initiative: the Laudato Si’ Pledge! This is our way to help keep the Pontiff’s message alive and inspire mass Catholic action on climate change. Last week, GCCM was happy to announce the endorsement of Pope Francis.

The Laudato Si’ Pledge (see text below) is a way for individuals, families, parishes, and organizations to commit to the transition to renewable energy and push elected leaders to take strong action to protect our common home.

Laudato Si’ Pledge:
Answering Pope Francis’ urgent call in Laudato Si’, I pledge to:

1) Pray for and with creation
2) Live more simply
3) Advocate to protect our common home.

The goal is to get at least 1 million Catholics to sign the pledge, to bring the encyclical to life. Church leaders from all continents supported this campaign launch with strong messages about the importance of Laudato Si’ and the need to take action.

If you haven’t yet, we urge our members (Catholic or not) to sign the pledge then help to spread the word. Think of 3 people with whom you can share this great news and invite them to sign the pledge.