Categories:  Students

A single chapter in the story of my life

Kris Fuentes Cortes

“Sometimes it’s really hard to share a certain chapter of your story. But don’t hesitate to turn to someone at UIC,” says Kris Fuentes Cortes.

Everyone has their own story and during my time at UIC, I have met so many people and learned a bit about each of their stories. Each story touches different themes but with a common ending: the hope of succeeding in this world.

What else I have learned is that some stories are not quite what you would expect.

This is a story I came across most recently:

“Through watery vision I looked at the wet cement and wondered, “How could this happen to me”? It was summer, but I was still cold as I tried to wrap myself in my comforter, perhaps I was trying to wrap myself in comfort. I felt my head pounding as I tried to calm myself down and I rested my head on the cement. My eyes slowly closed. I felt emotionally exhausted from what I was facing: I was homeless on the streets of Chicago.

As the sun rose, I woke up to see others still asleep around me. I grabbed my comforter and my backpack and went to the nearest laundromat to wash the only items I had on me. I would shower at a different friend’s house each day telling them that my apartment’s plumbing was broken. My pride wouldn’t allow the truth of my situation to surface; I couldn’t even tell my best friends. I would change into my work clothes and go serve at the restaurant I worked at, and then spend whatever time I could at a library or Starbucks. When it was late at night, I would go find somewhere to sleep, most of the time it was under a bridge. I never shared my story of homelessness until school started and a friend took me in.”

This story is mine.

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote to the LARES committee in hopes of obtaining a home. This is an excerpt of the experience I dealt with this past summer. It’s something I have hidden from so many because I was ashamed of where I had landed in my life. I was a leader on campus who was super involved, who came from miles away to reach my dream of graduating. Now, here I was sleeping on the streets, while my mother cried at home wishing she had funds to send me.

I will tell you my story of how I rose from this situation.

It began with LARES and meeting an advisor who would later on become a good friend of mine, Omare Villagrana. After I told him my situation, he instantly connected me with William Rodriguez, associate dean of students, a man who guided me to so much help. I never knew there were so many people on campus who cared about my situation. As the fall semester began, I was welcomed to my friend’s home, where I would sleep on a mattress in the living room. Having a bed was heaven. Every day I would get up early and spend as much time on campus as possible, stay involved and work hard in my classes.  Only then would I have a chance at the scholarship at the end of the semester; if I didn’t get it then I would be back on the streets, but this time in the middle of winter.

I remember waking up the day before I would fly home for the holidays, holding my breath waiting for the worst. My phone beeped with an email stating that I was the recipient of a LARES scholarship. I immediately began to cry and called all my closest friends and my mother assuring them that I would be OK.

As spring semester began, I moved into my new home and I had never been so grateful for a home in my entire life. No matter what, I knew I had my final goal to complete … graduation. This semester has not been easy with personal issues that I may face, financial issues I still encounter and my coursework. Yet I knew that things could be much worse and I just needed to stay focused and keep my support group near me.  Now here I am about to take my last final with the hopes of graduating next Sunday, with my mother flying out to see the one thing I have been working on for so long.  I’m not sure what the future looks like, but I know this for sure – I will make the best of any situation and I will be grateful for everyone and everything.

Why did I tell you my story? Well, I guess I wanted to make a point that sometimes it’s really hard to share a certain chapter of your story. But when the time comes around where problems are really affecting you, then don’t hesitate to turn to someone at UIC. I owe so much to certain people at this university and I know that when I leave that they will be with me. Besides, one dark chapter shouldn’t ruin your novel. Thank you for reading a chapter of mine.

A special thank you to Denika Wilson, Rhonda Laylo, Omare Villagrana, Maggie Williams, William Rodriguez, Ryan Ptak, Christy Levy, Michael Belmonte, the UIC Communication Department, UIC Radio, UIC News, LARES, my polar bears and UIC Athletics.

And of course, to my friends who have given me the best memories I’ll cherish forever. For being my family when I needed one. Finally to my mother, who has always been there for her pepita, can’t wait to see you when you land.