December 10, 2016

Focusing on the future

Monica Montejano wants to make films. Her goal is to become a film director, and she is looking to Webster University to make that goal a reality. She began to write stories when she moved to the St. Louis area.

“I always wished for people to see these stories, not just read them,” Montejano said.

The road to St. Louis, however, was a bumpy one.

Montejano, 17, grew up in Tulare, California as the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father. She has two sisters and one brother. Her father was a low-income farm worker.

In 2007, when Montejano was nine years old, her mother passed away. She had been in the hospital for a while before her passing. Montejano’s father was the first to learn the news after receiving a phone call from the hospital.

Montejano said the memory of her mother she holds most dear was her love for animals. She remembers how open her mother was to taking in any stray dog.

“I developed a love of animals because of her,” she said.

Her mother passed away after Montejano completed fourth grade. After her mother’s passing, Montejano’s family could no longer afford the house.

They went on to move around and live with other people. Montejano attended three different schools in her fifth and sixth grade years. Her father eventually remarried, and when Montejano was in the seventh grade, her family moved in with his newlywed wife.

Deported to Mexico

In the summer of 2012, Montejano’s father and uncle, along with a few other farm workers, were pulled over on their way to work.

“It wasn’t right,” Montejano said.

At the time, Montejano was visiting her godparents. It was from them that she learned her father was going to be deported back to Mexico. She has not seen her father since. They have made contact around five times in the past two years.

It was especially sad because he was such a tough worker,” she said.

Montejano said her father never backs down from an opportunity to go out and do something.  His strength and perseverance is what she admires most about him.

“He would do anything for even the smallest reward,” she said.

Looking to the Future

After losing her dad, Montejano went to live with her godfather David Noble and his family, who live in the St. Louis area. Noble was who Montejano was visiting when she learned her father was being deported.

“Her stepmother called and said she (Montejano) should not come back home,” Noble said.

Montejano has earned scholarships from Webster to help pay for school. However, Noble and his wife, who have two daughters of their own, cannot provide her with the finances she needs to go forward.

She turned to GoFundMe, an online crowd-funding program.  Montejano launched the page titled “Future Film Director” on April 4, 2015. She is hoping to raise $10,600 in order to attend Webster in the fall of 2015. As of April 23, she has raised $1,000.

She said if she does not reach her goal by the time she needs to pay her tuition, she will use what she earned and other future aid to pay for the next year.

Montejano knows people have gone through similar painful experiences. However, she believes she’s different from many kids her age who haven’t fallen into the pitfalls of growing up with a rocky familial past such as drug or alcohol abuse. She is also the first in her family to attend college.

Montejano faced another struggle in addition to her father being deported across border lines and her mother passing away: Her sister dealt with a drug addiction. This is what motivated her to start thinking about the prospect of college.

“I saw the effects of what she (the sister) was doing,” Montejano said. “That pushed me because I didn’t want that.”

Montejano said she learned to get through the tough times by keeping her eye on the prize: college.

“I want to go to college,” Montejano said. “I want to achieve my dreams, and I want to make something of myself.”

Noble said Montejano has gotten through her rough past because she continues to focus on what she wishes to accomplish and to not go at it alone.

“She’s learned how to ask for help when she needs it, and that is a process for everybody, including me,” Noble said. “She’s extremely resilient. She’s a survivor.”

Montejano’s college fund can be found at gofundme.com/axp9nc

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