Carlos - Phoenix

Author: BHGH Web Admin/Monday, February 17, 2014/Categories: National Success Stories

Carlos - Phoenix

Phoenix scholar CARLOS O. became a champion debater while at Phoenix’s Brophy Preparatory Academy. He’s a superstar within the National Forensics League—the governing body of high school competitive speech and debate. His specialty is Congressional Debate, a particularly demanding style of debate modeled upon the rules and methods used in the United States Congress. “It’s a very formal style of debate,” Carlos says. “It’s based on mutual respect, and you maintain a very formal demeanor throughout the debate. It works just like Congress—you debate legislation, and you have to support your case.”

He’s one of the top five Congress-style debaters in the country. Over the last three years, he’s taken home over 40 awards, and recently competed in the Harvard National Congress, one of the most prestigious debate tournaments in the country.

What leads a young person into this arena? Carlos says it wasn’t exactly planned.

“It kind of happened by accident,” he says. “I needed to take a summer school class before my freshman year of high school, and I saw a class called ‘Forensics’ on the schedule. I thought it was forensic pathology, and that sounded interesting, but when I got there, I saw that it had nothing to do with science.”

But if it was an accident, it was a fortunate one, because it gelled with one of Carlos’ long-time interests: politics. “I’ve always been a fan of politics,” he says. “I always followed it. Debate gives me the chance to do more than just read about it.”

One of five siblings, Carlos’ family struggled with many of the challenges facing first-generation American families, so he’s had good reason to be interested in politics, having experienced firsthand how policy affects people. His family valued education and worked hard to get Carlos into Brophy Prep, but an economic crisis threatened his future at the school. His mother reached out to Boys Hope Girls Hope and our Phoenix Affiliate’s Executive Director, Tami Bohannon found an “angel” donor who was willing to underwrite Carlos’scholarship to the program.

“I love it,” he says of Boys Hope Girls Hope. “What the program offers is incredible. It gives you a place to stay, amenities—all you have to do is to stay on track and be responsible. It’s the best deal anyone ever offered me.”


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A Note from Erika Madrigal Martinez, 2002 Girls Hope graduate

As a freshman in high school, I did not understand the impact that Girls Hope (GH) was going to have in my life.  Looking back at the past ten years, I can honestly say that my enriching experience at GH propelled me to become the strong, confident, and independent woman that I am today.  Most importantly, GH allowed me to build relationships with people that, to this day, have been there to encourage, support, and guide me throughout all of my endeavors.  In other words, GH not only provided me with the tools to succeed as an individual, but it also gave me the opportunity to gain a second family.    
I first learned about GH through the secretary at my church who was also a good friend of the family.  She recommended that I apply to the program because she was aware of my parents’ desire to provide me with the best education despite the economic challenges that they faced.  As soon as my parents became aware of what GH provided, they knew that it was the life-changing opportunity they had been praying for.  I, on the other hand, was originally hesitant to leave home, but as soon as GH opened their doors to me, my apprehension disappeared, and success became my new reality.   
During my time at GH, I was exposed to a myriad of educational, social, and career opportunities.  For instance, GH provided me with a family-style and value-centered residential home, a scholarship to a private high school, tutoring, and continuous encouragement so that I could reach my academic potential.  In addition, GH introduced me to a limitless world where everything is possible and instilled in me the idea that goals can be reached.  As a result, I was able to attend Pepperdine University, study abroad in Argentina, intern in a congressional office, and participate in a nine-month, prestigious fellowship program in Washington, DC.  Moreover, following my fellowship, I was hired by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation. There I was able to learn extensively about immigration law and even had the opportunity to meet Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.  These, among other experiences, have allowed me to grow and have paved my way towards an even brighter future.   
In addition, the people that run GH have been key contributors to the positive experience that I have had.  The sponsors, staff, and house parents have, in many unique ways, shaped my life.  They have served as a reliable support system in which I have not only found inspiration and encouragement, but also comfort and love.  GH not only represents an educational opportunity, but also a life-long relationship that I truly cherish.  I feel privileged to be part of such a great organization that has and continues to impact my life in wonderful ways.