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Fernanda Fortiz was 17 years old when her mother concluded that life in El Salvador was too dangerous for her daughter. Gang violence was a problem there, and she wanted Fortiz to return to the United States, where she was born.
"My parents separated when I was 5, so my mom went back to El Salvador, and she took me," says Fortiz. "And when I was 17, she sent me back because it was too dangerous to be there and she just wanted me to have a better future."
Fortiz is working hard to make that dream a reality. Now 22, she juggles college studies in biology with a full-time job as a waitress.
"I also take care of my teenage sister who lives with me," she says. "So yeah, I have a lot of things on my plate."
Fortiz is finishing up studies at Montgomery College and will enroll at the University of Maryland in College Park this fall. She eventually wants to work in medicine or global health, and says she now considers Washington her home.
"I do consider myself a Washingtonian," she says. "I have learned to love this city. I like the good things and the bad things about it, and I would definitely want to stay here, yes."
[Music: "Confesion (Romanza)" by Alexander Sergei Ramirez on Barrios Mangore Confesion]