"I believe fortitude is key. More than anything, be consistent. Go at it. Go at it. Go at it. When you succeed, don’t forget the responsibility of making somebody else succeed with you.”
– Antonia Novello
Triumph Founder & Executive Director
Silvia arrived in Vista, California at three years old. Her mother migrated from Mexico in pursuit of a better and more plentiful life for herself and her eight children, and while the intent was admirable, their journey was met with countless challenges.
Without documentation and adequate employment, her mother’s options were limited. By extension, her children's options were limited as well. Silvia’s childhood was spent passing through one dilapidated, uninhabitable two-bedroom apartment to the next, suffering various forms of abuse and neglect along the way. School was no haven either. Without the necessary support to overcome an overwhelming language barrier, severe ADHD, and dyslexia, graduating seemed like an impossible feat. As the “troubled kid,” she was encouraged instead to lean on employment instead of academics. Which is why at only 12 years old, Silvia joined the workforce.
“Graduating wasn’t something we knew we had to do. It wasn’t an option, it wasn’t even “we can do it.” I didn’t learn how to read until I was in fifth grade. I had flunked twice and my mom was never involved because she was too busy working.”
With much perseverance, however, Silvia did graduate high school at 18. Not simply as a teen, but as a married, 8 months pregnant manager of two dry cleaning businesses. Throughout life’s trials, she certainly proved her determination to succeed. Silvia went on after high school to live a rich career as an early learning educator and now owns and oversees 3 early learning centers.
Silvia often jokes that if she had been given the resources and encouragement she has now as a kid, she would be city mayor by now. For her, support was always close, but out of touch. She remembers what it felt like living across the street from a Boys and Girls Club in Vista, knowing her family would never be able to pay to use their facilities or attend their programs. It was moments like these that inspired her to one day open Triumph.
She eventually made her dream a reality and founded Triumph Teen Life Center in 2022 as the first and only free multilingual after school program serving teens ages 13-18 in Skagit County. Since its founding, Triumph has served over 500 families and continues to have a resounding impact in the local community.
“I see myself in our teens.”
While not necessarily grateful for the trials she experienced at childhood, she can appreciate that it makes her empathetic, compassionate, protective, and prepared. She knows when her teens are experiencing hurt, and when to lend an ear or helping hand. Most importantly, she understands how important it is for every teen to have a Triumph, a place where teen’s feel empowered to flourish regardless of their circumstances and surrounded by mentors that believe in them.
Silvia’s story is a story of triumph and now, through her teen center, she hopes to help other teens triumph as well.