Elvia Bustos Acevedo was born in Santiago Collantes, in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico in 1986, where she grew up with one brother and four sisters. Elvia is the oldest child. She lived with both parents until the age of four and then lived for two years with her extended family after her parents separated. She moved back in with her mother at the age of six and lived with her until she was fifteen years old. After that Elvia was forced by circumstances that were beyond her control to live alone. Elvia’s parents did not have any formal education and her mother had to do any job that she could to support her children; like washing clothes, cleaning or cooking. Her father earned money as a hunter; hunting deer, iguanas, armadillos, birds, and sometimes he collected turtle eggs and later on he became a Mason, building homes for others in his town. Both of Elvia’s parents worked extended days and into the night to support their children and to provide the basic necessities for life.
By the time she finished her middle school education, at the age of 15, there was no High School in her town, so Elvia was forced to move by herself to the nearest city, which was about 50 miles away from her family home, to both work and study. She began her studies at C.B.T.a No. 10 (Centro de Bachillerato Tecnológico Agropecuario) an Agricultural Technology Learning Center in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca. Elvia struggled to survive on a day to day basis, and thus did not have much time to be a child or enjoy her youth like other people her age were doing. She went to school from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon and then worked from three in the afternoon until ten in the night during the week and during the weekend she worked all day and some extended days. She paid for her own education and sent money back to her family back in her hometown. Her schedule left her no time to visit her family, except on the occasional Sunday night, when she would see her siblings and then be forced to return Monday morning.
Months before she graduated she applied to UAAAN (Antonio Narro Autonomous Agrarian University) in Cuauhila, Mexico. She wanted to study Agricultural Engineering. 7 out of 50 people who took the test passed. Elvia was one of the ones that passed. However, at the same time she was considering continuing her education in Mexico, she was drawn to the idea of coming the United States of America because her boyfriend came to the United States a few years earlier and he suggested that she come here and continue her studies in New York. This was an extremely challenging decision for Elvia to make since she felt that she was on a road to success in her life already, but she had always dreamt about the day when she could have a better quality of life and leave poverty behind.
Elvia graduated from High School with a Technical Career Certificate in Agriculture on July 9th and began her process to move to the United States of America on July 10th of 2004. Elvia’s graduation celebration was more like a funeral, because all she could do was cry at the thought that she would never see her family ever again. She ultimately said goodbye to her friends and family and took a very frightening trip to New York City, most challenging because she did not know what to expect in America or on her way to America.
Elvia arrived to New York City in July, was reunited with her childhood sweetheart and lived with him. The first thing Elvia did, was to look for a school , where she could learn English, and she started taking classes at the New York Language Center. Her initial plan was to learn English first, and then enroll in college. She received no guidance from anyone though and did not know that she could learn English while pursuing a degree. This cost her more than 6 years of her life.
In 2007, Elvia asked her mother to send her the high school papers from Mexico, so that she could enroll at Hostos Community College. She was told that she would only be accepted as a Foreign Student and since she did not have the money to pay as a foreign student, it was recommended to her that she pursue her GED instead. Elvia took English and GED classes at Highbridge Community Life Center in the Bronx. She passed her GED in December of 2009. Since she was still struggling with money, she applied for her green card and a year later, in May of 2010, Elvia became a United States Resident Alien and was ready to start college. She registered for the Spring 2011 semester at Hostos Community College. That was the beginning of a new life for Elvia. Her life changed for the better and she was able to visit her family for the first time after seven years of not seeing them.
In the same semester that Elvia started at Hostos, she heard from students around the college that if she wanted to volunteer and make a difference in the community she should join the Hostos Student Leadership Academy. She interviewed and was accepted into the Emerging Leaders Program, (as a freshman through the open door policy.) Elvia immediately began to engage in volunteer activities, leadership trainings and workshops and also was one of the first student leaders to participate in the Hostos Athletic Leaders Organization Retreat in the spring of 2011. Elvia was promoted to the Hostos Student Ambassador Program five months after she began and has exceeded all expectations for an Ambassador.
Elvia has been passionate about volunteering since she was thirteen years of age. At that time, she volunteered in her town’s clinic, helping the intern doctors administer vaccinations, do paper work or anything else that needed to be done around the clinic. Her high school senior project was to reforest the clinic, so she planted several trees and Ficus plants, that were provided by her school to make the clinic look beautiful. In America, Elvia faced a language barrier and she worked really hard to learn English, but at the same time she was in pursuit of her GED, she utilized her free time by becoming a volunteer math teacher for adult students pursuing their elementary education (INEA) at St. Jerome’s Church, in the South Bronx. She also has volunteered regularly since her arrival in the United States at the Mexican Consul, to provide information to people about educational and college options.
As a member of the Hostos Student Leadership Academy Elvia has visited with seniors at Isabella Geriatric Facility, walked at AIDS Walk NYC, participated in activities to improve the Hostos Community College Admissions experience and is working on a special project to improve the learning skills of new English Language Learners at Hostos. Elvia has also attended a number of Leadership Conferences over the past year, including the City University of New York Emerging Leaders Conference, the College of Staten Island Annual Leadership Conference, the LaGuardia Community College Leadership Conference, the Millennium campus Conference in Harvard, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference-Northeast and the National Conference on Ethics in America at West Point.
Elvia was the first student ever selected for the Presidential Student Diplomat Program that runs out of the President’s Office at Hostos Community College and she is the President and founder of the Culture of Reading Club, whose mission it is to assist students in their English language learning through the reading and discussion of books.
In the future she would like to go to the City College of New York to study Earth Science and Environmental Engineering or Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to study Environmental Engineering. She hopes to one day be able to make change all over the world through Environmental initiatives.
In addition, since a very young age Elvia has enjoyed exploring her artistic side by painting, air brushing, oil painting and drawing. Her favorite hobby is however, carpentry.