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Girls' Haven helps teenager overcome difficult past
BEAUMONT - An 18-year-old girl in Beaumont is living the "American Dream."
With the help of Girls' Haven, she graduated from high school on time and overcame sexual and physical abuse.
Slicing and dicing has been a part of Elizabeth Suarez's life since she was very young.
"When I was 6 years old is when I started cooking for my brothers," Suarez said.
Her grandmother taught her how to cook in Michoacn, Mexico.
"I love spicy food," said Suarez.
Today, she's making green salsa to demonstrate pride in her roots and how far she's come while overcoming obstacles.
"I was kinda nervous. At the same time, I was scared, crossing the border," Suarez said.
When Elizabeth was 14, she couldn't speak any English. She walked across the border illegally to reunite with her mother.
"At first, everything was really ok. My mom was being nice to me," said Suarez.
But she said within weeks, her mother's boyfriend had sexually assaulted her, beaten her and left her an emotional wreck.
"To me, that's not sad; that's life. You go through stuff to become the person you are now," said Suarez.
Elizabeth said when she moved into Girls' Haven one year ago, it was the best decision for her future.
"I want to be the person who comes from nothing and has not everything, but everything I can get," said Suarez.
She made up three years of high school in one year and gradated on time from West Brook High School.
"Not just one scholarship, I have 5, I'm gonna keep going. To me, this is just the beginning of my dream," said Suarez.
Her dedication helped her get more than $5,000 in college scholarships and a piece of paper that means the world to her -- a social security card.
"Ms. Alice told me, 'Well, you're living the American dream.' Well, yes, I've been really blessed, I'm just really excited," said Suarez.
It's just the beginning of her journey through life.
She'll head off to college in the fall and then get her own apartment.
But she plans to return to Girls' Haven often to help in the kitchen and share her success story.
Elizabeth is going to college to become a crime scene detective.