Kids Ask Dr. Phil: Luz

Triumphing over Tragedy
Dr. Phil gives advice to an 18-year-old who is torn between taking care of her family and going away to college.
Dr. Phil recently gave a presentation at the Beat the Odds® Awards, sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Five children who have overcome tremendous obstacles were honored, and Luz was one of them.

"I come from a family of 8. I was the oldest. We all lived together in a garage," Luz says. "My father was very violent with everyone; we all walked on eggshells around him. We were beaten a lot. Guadalupe was a 1 1/2. My father just picked her up and threw her to the wall and that's when she died."

Her father buried Guadalupe in the forest and forced his family to help. He also killed her 5-year-old stepbrother, Ernesto. "My father was sentenced to the death penalty. My mom was in prison. She was deported. After everything happened, we were sent to live in a foster home. The county wanted to put the twins in adoption. I panicked."

At 11 years old, Luz obtained a lawyer and fought to keep her family together. She also took her plight to the media. "I moved a lot of people and they actually let me stay with the kids," she says.

Now 18, Luz wants to go away to college, but is unsure if she can handle being separated from her siblings. "Dr. Phil, what do I do about the guilt that I have about leaving my family behind and going to college?"
"Your question now is, 'It's time for me to take the next step in my life and should I do that or should I not?' How do you feel about going to college?" Dr. Phil asks. "What do you think will happen if you do that?"

Telling Dr. Phil that she fears her family will be split up if she leaves, Luz says, "It's hard for me to let go and I don't know if I'm doing the right thing."

Dr. Phil assures Luz that she has allies. "Marian Wright Edelman, who is the founder of the Children's Defense Fund, is a passionate fighter for children's rights," he says. In the audience are some of Luz's supporters from the CDF and the Children's Law Center: Carol Biondi, Beth Osthimer, Lisa Mandel and Victoria Ramirez Ballesteros.
Dr. Phil reiterates that Luz is having a difficult time deciding if she should leave her siblings to attend college. "You want my opinion about that, right?" he asks.

"Yes, I do," Luz replies.

"My opinion about that is that you absolutely have to do that," Dr. Phil urges, as the audience applauds. "You have to go to college and continue to develop, and that will give you the power in a professional career to continue to help them as well as to use your life in helping others. Does it make sense what I'm saying?"

Luz answers, "Yes, it does."

"We know that you not only want to go to college, but you wanted to go to a school by the water in San Diego. Well, when the University of San Diego heard about your story, they wanted to be involved," Dr. Phil says, introducing Dr. Mary Lyons, the university's president.

Dr. Lyons says, "Luz, you are a remarkable woman whose presence
would grace any college or university campus. You've been a good student. You've shown remarkable compassion and courage and determination. So it is my pleasure to present to you today a letter signed by me, and this letter
accepts you to the University of San Diego and it also offers you a full scholarship for room and board for four years." As Luz cries, Dr. Lyons presents her with a USD sweatshirt.
Bringing Luz' support system on stage, Dr. Phil clarifies, "I want to be sure you heard everything here. You've been accepted to the university. They are granting you a four-year scholarship for room, board, tuition, books, fees " everything."
Dr. Phil also has another surprise for Luz. "Just so you're still able to reach your little brothers and sisters while you're away at school, Nextel also sent us six telephones " one for you and one for each of them " with unlimited phone and use with their nationwide direct connect service ... You're not going to get a bill for any of those for the next two years."

Dr. Phil has a final surprise for Luz, and walks her backstage to retrieve it: a 2004 Hyundai Accent.

As a crying Luz sits in her new car, Dr. Phil announces, "We want you to be able to get back and forth with all of your brothers and sisters ... and Shell Oil Company also wanted you to have $1,000 in free gas so you can get back and forth."

Since Luz doesn't have her driver's license yet, First Time Driver is going to give her driving lessons.

"Has there ever been a more deserving young woman than Luz?" Dr. Phil asks, and the audience applauds.