The After-School All-Stars is a program that has truly changed my life and that has inspired me to help others. I began with the program at a very young age, taking part in as many programs as possible. The one program that influenced me the most was a judo class being held at San Jose State University. I began taking classes after my father was diagnosed with cancer. Medical bills were too expensive and so we could not afford any other programs around the area. It only took a few weeks before I knew that I had found the sport that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I'm not sure if it was the comfort I felt that the program offered, or the thrill of fighting, but I knew I was in love.
My father passed away on February 11th, 2007, the same day as the Western Regional tournament. I was not informed about my father's passing till the afternoon, but we were both fighting at the same time. I was fighting for the gold and he was fighting for his life, I know my father would have wanted me to be at the tournament. I believe that his love for watching me fight and knowing that he is always watching me fight, is what drives me to succeed.
I have been doing judo for about eight years and have won many national titles, I was invited to the junior Pan-American championships, and just this June I competed in the Olympic trials for a chance of making the USA team. This summer I will be training to compete at nationals in Florida and at the Junior World Team trials.
I have come to realize that although the fame of winning is always a very exciting thing, that is not what matters most. The After-School All-Stars has changed my life, with my success I hope to not just represent the program, but to show kids that anything is possible if you only set your mind to it.
Editor's Note: This story was submitted in the Summer of 2008.