top of page

Ethan Camarena | Ontario | Keep Your Head Up!

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

My journey is one that can be complicated so I’ll do my best to outline it briefly! In summary, I went through quite a bit early on in life. This included: growing up with a father who had schizophrenia and handling countless traumatic episodes; a night that ended up with my mother and I in the hospital and my father going to jail; later building a relationship with my father who then got cancer and lost his battle with it at the age of 33, with myself being 15 at the time; my mother and I staying in a shelter for a period of time; my mother struggling with an alcohol addiction; and other various challenges like bullying or exclusion in school because of my personal life or appearance. Although this doesn’t encompass everything I had gone through growing up, it provides an overview and timeline of my early struggles. However, the tide would soon to turn for me in the coming years after my father’s passing.

This tide came in the form of: myself losing weight and becoming healthier the same year’s summer of my father’s passing, which led to significant changes in my life; the participation in 3 youth development/leadership programs which led to invaluable opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship; the participation in two entrepreneurship incubators which led to me starting a social enterprise and almost another; becoming one of the top students in my college program; performing at work in construction where I’ve become a supervisor and have worked in the industry for almost 8 years; volunteering for the organizations which helped me as a youth and doing work in my communities for almost 8 years as well; getting into and performing in my studies of political science and public administration at the University of Ottawa where I hope it leads to making my work about helping people and giving back to my communities; meeting many amazing people throughout the years who I can now also consider as family; and most importantly, my mother overcoming her addiction and later taking up schooling for addiction counselling so she can help others who are going through what she did. Thankfully, I can say the tide turned for me despite the likelihood of them not.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

Since, I addressed my biggest hurdles, I’d like to solely speak on how I overcame them. Upon reflection on my journey, there are 2 critical variables which allowed my journey to unfold the way it has to this point. The first variable being the characteristics of hard work, optimism, and resiliency. Throughout my journey I’ve had to work extremely hard to accomplish my goals, think positive whenever possible, and endure and overcome life’s new challenges. These three characteristics weren’t only helpful throughout life’s early struggles but also for my present day hurdles. Our journey rarely comes to an end, as we sometimes perceive after accomplishing our goals, and there will always be obstacles to overcome. However, in my life I have overcame and continue to do so with the continued application of these characteristics, from the moment I wake up until I go to bed.

The second variable being community and giving back. Without getting into too much detail, I was only able to have life changing opportunities available at vital points in my life because other people have always lent me a helping hand. Whether it was youth mentors, university students, teachers/professors, or friends, these/my communities have always been there for me and I have no idea where I’d be in my life without them. This goes into the second aspect of this variable which is to always give back. Although there have been professional opportunities available to me because of my volunteer work, this is completely overshadowed by the fact that the best experiences I have had in my life were and are those where I can, in whatever way, help the next youth or person accomplish their goals and/or get through their troubles. Being able to help others the way I’ve been helped is now my sole mission in my life and for those who may read this who have helped me, thank you. These 2 variables significantly helped me through my journey and I believe that if others applied these same in their lives, it may help them in their journey as well.

What books are you currently reading?

Currently I’m reading all the books and articles which I’ve been assigned to for my classes which range in topics such as law, public policy analysis, public administration, political science, etc.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?

I wish I had known of the great amount of people and organizations who are dedicated to helping youth develop their skills and present them opportunities. As, if it wasn’t for the luck I had with a friend of mine helping me learn about one and join a leadership program, I would’ve never been where I am today. So instead of leaving it up to luck, I wish I knew about the amazing opportunities for youth and particularly underprivileged such as myself, so that I could’ve began to turn the tide a little earlier.

What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

The advice I would give is that keep your head up. At the end of the day. Our journeys are continuous despite how we may feel, this means that there will be new challenges and hurdles to overcome but you can do them. You most definitely have in the past, even for those who don’t believe they have, and you will overcome them now. You are not alone in your fight and there are many people rooting in your corner for you, including me. From the words of a Nike commercial, “What others are built by, I’m built for”, and you are also. Work hard, be optimistic, be kind, and help others the way they’ve helped you!


bottom of page