‘SOMETHING I’M PROUD OF’: After harrowing childhood departure from Honduras, Mt. Vernon senior set to graduate

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MVHS senior Arleht Castro. Castro came to the U.S. as a young girl from Honduras. Growing up can be tough no matter where you are, but especially coming to a different country. She’s currently pursuing her U.S. citizenship and wants to be a nurse. Monday, May 24, 2022.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — Being a teenager can be tough enough on its own.

Arleht Castro did it coming to a new country without any guardians, her young cousin in tow.

Now, she’s getting ready to graduate from Mt. Vernon High School. And she doesn’t plan on letting her accomplishments stop there.

The 18-year-old was born in Honduras. Looking back, growing up there didn’t seem so different at the time, it being all she ever knew.

“You didn’t really think about it until you came to a different country, where everything is different, even the bathrooms,” Castro said with a laugh. “It’s crazy.”

She lived with her grandmother in her home country. Her father left when she was a baby, and her mother remained at a distance throughout her childhood as well.

“Growing up, my mom wasn’t there much,” Castro said. “She would call sometimes. She’d visit, but she would eventually leave. I guess I just got used to it.”

Castro was about to turn 13 when she set off for the United States. Her aunt in Kentucky arranged for Castro and her aunt’s child, who was 18 months old at the time, to make the trip.

“Mostly I had wanted some change,” Castro said of her desire to come to the U.S. “I knew that life in Honduras was very difficult, especially for a female. My aunt lived in Kentucky at the time. She wanted her baby, and I wanted to come here, so it was a win-win.”

The young Castro and her even younger cousin trekked north with a group in cars and trucks and stayed in homes where they performed chores along the way. Castro said it took about a month to make their way up through Central America and Mexico before arriving in Texas.

She was glad to be in the U.S., but noted it wasn’t all that she expected.

“I was excited,” she said. “I was happy. I was mostly a little bit confused when I arrived in Texas. I thought it would be like a huge city with big lights and huge buildings.”

Eventually she ended up in Arizona, where she was separated from her cousin. Authorities didn’t let Castro go with her cousin to her aunt’s in Kentucky, as she and her aunt didn’t have the same last name. The authorities could, however, allow her to go live with a relative whose last name she shared. So she flew to Indiana to live with her father, whom she had only talked with on occasion since he left after her birth. Castro stayed with her father for a while before going to live with foster parents. She hasn’t seen her mother since leaving Honduras, although the two occasionally text and talk on the phone.

Castro started at the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation in the middle of freshman year.

One of the many ways she had to adapt to life in the U.S. was learning the English language.

“Learning how to speak, how to write, how to listen carefully,” she said. “I’d say it took me a year to learn it, and I’ve been perfecting it ever since.”

While she had English teachers in Honduras, they only left her with a command of basic manners and colors.

She received help with her language skills from her stepsister and teachers, whom she credited for their patience.

Castro is currently working toward her U.S. citizenship, a process she described as slow.

“It’s mostly been a big waiting game,” she said.

She was in the certified nursing assistant program at Mt. Vernon High School. Her lack of U.S. citizenship prevented her from taking the state test to get certified, however.

Eventually Castro wants to pursue a career in nursing.

“Helping others makes me happy, makes me feel like I’m actually doing something,” she said.

The citizenship hurdle also poses challenges toward working in many instances and getting a driver’s license.

“I can’t do much really,” Castro said. “So I’m going to focus on the things that I can do, which would be getting certain summer jobs and doing certain trade schools.”

When she walks in Mt. Vernon High School’s graduation ceremony on Friday to get her diploma, it will be a culmination of that first step she took years ago leaving all she knew and overcoming the challenges that followed.

“I really hadn’t realized how big they were,” she said. “It’s crazy I’ve done all of these things and I’m still alive. It’s a big accomplishment, something I’m proud of.”

Castro’s enrollment at Mt. Vernon contributes to the school district’s diversity, which includes 114 English learners from at least 21 countries speaking at least 17 native languages.

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