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   WZM Award for Compassion 


WZM Award


WZM Honorable Mention Award presented on
May 7, 2015 to Ester Ruiz - Garfield High School







My biggest challenge was growing up with an abusive father whose heroism was overshadowed by his drunkenness. He would senselessly beat my mother and six siblings and all I could do was cry with them. We soon discovered he had a second family of four and one day he packed a suitcase and walked out the door. Suffering from poverty and heartbreak my mother decided to move from Mexico to our birthplace, Los Angeles. When we arrived, we had no further option, but to stay the night at a homeless shelter. Cradled in my mother's arms, I remember hearing her sob quietly as she felt my ribs poking through my tattered shirt. Finally my mother received a phone call from the Los Angeles County Housing Authority informing us that a slot had opened for an apartment.

The public-subsidized housing in which I spent my childhood posed its own challenges, as helicopters thundered through the night in search of criminal suspects, making sleep impossible. Gang violence plagued the area, traumatizing me when I witnessed a gang-affiliated murder and leaving me deathly afraid to walk home from school. But I remained grateful that we at least went to bed without our stomachs grumbling and had a place to call home. The trauma I suffered in my crime-ridden neighborhood ultimately instilled in me a relentless desire to reform and rehabilitate my community.

I became passionate in engaging myself in various school and community events with the objective of embodying a leader. I began offering assistance in several hospitals including White Memorial Medical Center where I met a girl, my age, with a strange and uncommon disease that paralyzed her. She had been an artist that loved to paint landscapes, but her talent had ceased and I could see the grief in her hollow eyes. So, I began painting with her and filling her white hospital chamber with vibrant colors. I brought in paintbrushes and pieces of paper to help during her therapeutic sessions. Although she struggled, I was always there to help her maneuver the paintbrush. Slowly, her motor skills returned and the day she checked out of the hospital she hugged me goodbye tightly, as if clinging onto every hope of comfort.

I realized that I had underestimated the power of my smile, or my kind words. It was these little cares that had the potential to change a life. Compassion is a quality that not only defines me as a human being but also propels me to have greater life satisfaction. My true measure of success hinges on my long term goal of establishing a community health center, led by professionals capable of meeting the needs of the underserved members of my community. I intend become a medical practitioner so as to acquire the skills to spearhead this organization. I am happiest when I make others happy. My relentless desire to improve and indomitable will to succeed will lead to the eventual improvement of the community I love.


Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
(818) 834-5925


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