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I didn't respect my dad's job as a janitor. This is what I would tell him now.

Today she's proud to be a janitor's daughter, but she didn't always feel that way.

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Fathers Everywhere

Argelia is a 39-year-old Mexican-American mom of two. She works as a training coordinator in Los Angeles, has a great family, and is known to wake up with a smile every day.

She gives a lot of credit to her late dad, Angel, though, who taught her the value of hard work and sacrifice. Her only regret is it took her a while to realize what he provided for his family. This is her story as told to Upworthy.


All photos provided by Argelia, used with permission.


Dear Dad,

Parents often say to their children, "You'll understand when you have kids." I never got that before, but now, in my case, I feel like that's very true.

Only a parent can understand the sacrifice you made to leave my mom, me sister, and me in Mexico to come work in the United States. As a 2-year-old, I didn't understand why you weren't with us. You were that faraway mystery — "my dad" — the wonderfully sweet man who would call me before bedtime to say, "good night."

I remember standing in my mom's room around all of your clothes asking: "Do you think he misses me? Do you think he likes me?" I thought about you all the time. You were a larger-than-life hero in my mind.

Two years later, when we finally moved to the United States to be with you, I found out that you were everything I had imagined, and many things I had not.

A young Argelia spending some quality time with her dad.

I didn't understand why you were always working. You left for work every day as soon as I got home from school and returned after I was already asleep. You even worked on weekends. To me, you were still the mystery that I thought about so often while in Mexico.

But instead of trying to figure you out, I just went with the flow. Being from another country, I focused on fitting in with everyone else instead, and that went on for a few years. But things got real once my classmates started sharing what their parents did for a living.

"My dad is a doctor," one said.

"My parents own a business," another said.

That's when I went home and asked you what you did for a living, and you told me that you were a janitor at a hospital. I was devastated.

Angel enjoying some rare downtime at work.

I heard how the kids joked with each other at my school by saying, "You're going to grow up and be a janitor."

As if that was the worst thing a person could become.

At that point, I realized there was absolutely no way I was going to tell my friends that my dad was a janitor. I avoided the subject for as long as I could before I finally created the lie that you were a scientist. My friends were impressed, but they had no idea how empty I felt inside.

It wasn't until high school that I started caring less about the opinions of others and more about the great man you were.

Finally Argelia learned to understand her dad.

I learned that many of the same classmates, with dads who were doctors and lawyers, told stories of how these men verbally and physically abused them, abandoned them, and ignored them.

What is a parent's love, anyway? In my heart, I learned that it meant sacrifice, hard work, patience, and knowing that you would do anything for our family.

For so long, I didn't give you credit for being the man you were and for all of the things you did for us — without fanfare, without complaint, and without rest. You did these things to establish yourself in this country, to find a home in a nice neighborhood so that my sister and I could have a good education and pursue our own dreams.

But by the time I realized all of this, you were gone.

Three months before I turned 18 and one year before I became an American citizen, you died after a tragic accident. You weren't there to witness everything you had hoped for me coming to fruition.

Now, I work in the same hospital that you worked in so tirelessly for all those years.

I walk the halls and wonder if some of the faces I see were faces you saw. Because of that, I always make sure to smile and say hello to everyone — from the friendly people to the ones who just walk by without giving me a second glance. I do it because I know that's what you would've wanted.

I've never forgotten the lessons you taught me — lessons you probably had no idea you were teaching me.

Those lessons changed my life.

Argelia with her two kids, Natalia and Sebastian.

When I became a mom, I promised myself that I would pass on those lessons to my kids.

Hard work, humility, and most importantly, to place more value on a person's heart instead of their clothes, their houses, their cars, or their job titles.

Speaking of job titles, today I am proud to say that I'm the daughter of a janitor because you embodied everything that I know to be good in this world.

When my daughter graduates from high school this June, Dad, you will be in my heart, and I will take immense pride in knowing that the lessons you taught me are alive in a new generation.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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