There is one special day Marvin Cardona has looked forward to during each of his four years at Denton High School: the Ann Windle Adopt-a-Child Day.
The holiday season is not only a time for celebrating, but also a time for giving back, and that’s just what this senior does.
Having grown up in California, Cardona didn’t live “the good life.” His family had money troubles, and Cardona grew up quickly, taking on adult responsibilities in elementary school.
“I learned how to coupon at a young age,” Cardona said. “It was just one of many things I learned to do while I was young.”
He had to wonder what each holiday season would be like.
“Most of our money we spent for the house, car and utilities,” Cardona said. “If we did get a gift, it would be one we could all share. Anything my mom thought was nice, she thought she could get for all five of us. Firemen would come down the street and bring presents. [They brought] whatever my mom couldn’t get me, which I thought was cool.”
It was that generosity that rubbed off on Cardona, which he tries to pass on today.
“Now, I get to do the same thing in high school for other little kids that people did for me,” he said. “Whenever I help, for one thing, I pretty much know how they feel about not having Christmas presents because, when I was growing up, I was in that same situation.”
Growing up, his parents barely made enough money to survive and provide for the family, and extras weren’t something that came around often.
“My mom and dad were immigrants, so they couldn’t really get high-paying jobs,” Cardona said. “My mom worked at a gas station, and my dad worked at a restaurant. My mom got $4.40 a hour and my dad got $10.50.”
Each time life started looking up, something happened to keep the family from living better.
“When my dad found a better paying job, we had more mouths to feed since I had one sister and one brother,” Cardona said. “I moved in with my cousin in a bigger house and had to live in the same room as my brother, then my mom had two more kids. At that time, she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom while my dad provided. Less money came in, no matter what job my dad got.”
Despite all of the obstacles of his childhood, Cardona loves the feeling of volunteering and seeing other people happy.
“It just feels good to volunteer, having someone look up to you and just realizing that they have someone watching over them and making sure they’re OK,” Cardona said. “It’s a good feeling. I think it just feels amazing to give for charity.”
EVIE CLARK is a senior at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for student journalists.