Jennie Cook asked her daughter and RootDown volunteer, Lindsay Cook, to write a profile of Ana Torres and Karen Ramirez, two RDLA staffers – two moms on a mission. Here's part two (find part one here). As the saying goes “there’s no one you can’t love, if you knew their story.” Read on…
Ana Torres, 20 started in the program as a freshman at Jefferson High school, and now holds the title of Programs Assistant. Torres said, "at first I just saw [RootDown LA] as something fun, I didn't realize what a big impact it was going to have on my life."
Torres moved to South LA from Mexico when she was eight-years-old, and when she graduated from high school she had trouble finding a job because she didn't have a work-permit, so she ended up at shoe-store in Downtown LA, working for less than minimum-wage. She saw an ad on Craigslist for a job at World Wide Produce, which reminded her of her experience with RootDown LA. Torres called Hanson, expecting to ask for a reference, but she received a job offer instead.
"Megan said she wanted me to work for RootDown....she offered me a good wage and a flexible schedule, which I needed because I was pregnant at the time." It's been almost a year since that fateful call, Torres' son Aaron is 7-months-old, and her job with RootDown affords her time with Aaron, time with her community, and enough time left over to pursue an associates degree.
While RootDown LA used to be run exclusively by two women from outside of the community, it is now led by two women from the very community it was set up to serve. Neighbors helping neighbors; folks who have similar stories and experiences, of immigration, language barriers, and a lack of access to the resources needed to build a healthy life are working to change that story for the coming generation.
When asked where she'd be if RootDown LA hadn't been a part of her life, Torres laughs and throws her hands in the air, "Don't say that, I don't want to think about it! Karen and I talk about it sometimes, but It gives me chills just thinking about it...We'd probably both still be downtown, working for next to nothing, and just struggling...I don't think I'd have the same goals."
But as it stands, RootDown LA does exist, Torres and Ramirez both have dreams of finishing college and owning their own businesses one day. They also have faith they can offer their children a healthier life, filled with more and better opportunities.