On this Friday of HOPE Week, the Yankees are reaching out to the Arias sisters – Johanna and Melida – who have worked through hardships and homelessness to make their lives better through education and hard work. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, Sergio Mitre, David Robertson and Tony Pena surprised Melida at her job at Wendy’s this morning, and the group will take both sisters on a surprise shopping spree at DKNY in Manhattan to outfit Melida for her freshman year of college and Johanna for future professional opportunities.
This one’s a pretty powerful. From the Yankees, here’s Johanna and Melida’s story:
For 16 years, the Arias women traveled from boardinghouse to rented room to homeless shelter and back again. While they never had much during that time, they always had each other.
Melida Arias, her older sister, Johanna, and her mother, Maria, were inseparable, pooling their change to put food on whatever makeshift dinner table was in front of them. They never went hungry, even if it meant tuna fish and rice every day for a week at a time.
Despite the obvious hardship of their situation, the sisters’ dedication to academics did not waver, and they remained committed to creating a better life for themselves someday. For many homeless teens, college is a fairy tale in a book kept on a shelf. For Melida and Johanna, it was a fixed object in the distance, becoming clearer and closer every day. If they continued to apply themselves, they would become the first members of their family to go to college.
As a freshman in high school, Melida confided the intimate details regarding her homelessness to fellow classmates, who then posted her personal secrets for the world to read online. Shamed by the gossip of her peers and angered at such a cruel betrayal, Melida decided to rise above the bullying and intimidation. Rather than letting the talk of others steal her self-worth, she left her school and transferred to Bronx Leadership Academy High School, where she immediately thrived in accepting and supportive new surroundings.
With the assistance of the organization Women in Need, the Arias women finally found housing during Melida’s junior year. Ever since, the scars of their experience fade by the day. But their triumph has not come without sacrifice. Soon after Johanna was accepted to Syracuse University two years ago, her mother became physically unable to continue her job as a cab driver. So instead of embarking on what is often described as the best four years of a person’s life, Johanna began working at McDonald’s in a job she still has today.
In June, Melida graduated in the top third of her class at the Bronx Leadership Academy, and she begins the next step of her education next spring with her freshman year at highly regarded Baruch College in Manhattan.
Her compassion is reflected in her course load as she embarks on the road to becoming a school psychologist. Her dream is to help children who are growing up under challenging circumstances, similar to herself.