Karina Flores poses by the G-Wing.

Finding My Wings: Karina Flores

2 mins read

Even before graduating in 2007, then-sophomore Karina Flores had promised herself that she would come back to M-A. Now, Flores works as the Intercultural Leadership program advisor and Conflict Mediator. 

Flores’ parents grew up in Zacatecas, a large city in central Mexico, came to the States in 1984 and 1989 respectively, and finally settled in East Palo Alto. Flores grew up on O’Keefe Street, and, when she was 12, her parents gave birth to her younger brother. 

In addition to her brother, Flores was also one of the oldest of 45 cousins, making her grow up with the pressure of being not only a role model, but also a translator and babysitter.

“I always knew I had a really big part to play in my family,” Flores said. “I remember helping my mom study for her U.S. citizenship test when I was in second or third grade while I was learning about American history.”

Flores joined the Tinsley program in second grade and attended Las Lomitas and La Entrada. Even though it was hard to adjust to the new environment––Flores looked nothing like her classmates––she still loved her experience at La Entrada.

From playing the clarinet, a large variety of sports, and even joining the student activities program, Flores took it upon herself to work hard and make the most of her time in middle school. “My parents grew up in more extreme poverty. They had the mindset of seeing everything as an opportunity and making sure that we worked hard for that,” Flores said.

For Flores, coming to M-A became another culture shock––she was now going to a school where half of the student body looked like her. At M-A, she connected the two communities she simultaneously grew up with, and learned even more about herself. 

At M-A, Flores met staff that understood, inspired, and cared for her. The passion and understanding that she received as a student made her want to give back to the next generation. “You have such a variety of populations that you can support and help at M-A. I think I really wanted to make sure that students could see themselves in someone else as well,” Flores said. 

As Flores reflects on her adolescence, she wishes that she had more access to mental health early on in high school. “It just wasn’t talked about in my generation. I wish I had had more access to talk about those kinds of things earlier on, but I know that was something that I had to navigate in my adult life, and that was really challenging at times,” she said.

Flores added, “There are a lot of those burdens and pressures that sometimes fall on the oldest or the first kid because it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re going to school, you’re supposed to know it.’ You’re supposed to be learning, but it’s really hard when you’re navigating those stressors of your family and school and maybe not even fully understanding the language as well, and you’re trying to fit in all at once. It’s a lot.”

“I was kind of just on the go for many years just trying to get through school and trying to establish a good job for myself. I didn’t really stop and pause to reflect and really think of how far I had come personally and how far my family had come,” Flores said. 

Celine Chien is a junior in her second year at the Chronicle. She is a Design Lead for the Mark, a copy editor, and reports on detracking and community news. Celine is on M-A's debate team, Leadership-ASB, and loves to cook and spend time with her family.

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