PCCC Alumna Publishes Memoir

Female student in the middle of other students at the Park, talking to each other

PCCC Alumna
Publishes Memoir:
Local Book Signing This Week

Posted 11-18-15


I Made It was published this month by AuthorHouse


Juana Ortiz displays her memoir
in the PCCC library

Juana Ortiz, (2009), has published her first book titled, I Made It, an inspiring memoir about her successful pursuit of a college degree despite physical disabilities and social and cultural challenges.

“I set goals most people thought I could not achieve, but I did,” said the former Paterson resident who now lives in Hawthorne. “I want others to know they can, too.”   

Stricken with cerebral palsy since her birth in the Dominican Republic, Juana describes her painful early years in a society that tended to reject people with disabilities and their families. “To most people, I was an alien, like someone from another planet,” she writes.

Poignant anecdotes tell how other children excluded young Juana from their play and ridiculed her speech and walking impediments. Though social exclusion continued into her pre-teen years, Juana enjoyed the love and support of not only her parents and two brothers, but also an extended family who, despite limited means, did all they could to help her.

Denied the opportunity to attend school, Juana studied from the schoolbooks of her two younger brothers, and received informal lessons from family members. “I had an enormous desire to learn,” she said.

When her family immigrated to the U.S. Juana was 15, spoke no English, and had little formal schooling. But she was determined to get an education in America.  I Made It tells the story of her encounter with a new language, different culture, and educational environment full of both challenges and opportunities, and with the teachers, counselors, and community groups who reached out to help her.

A model of persistence, Juana graduated from JFK High School in Paterson in 1997 at the age of 24 and went on to PCCC where she earned her associate’s degree in Liberal Arts/English in 2009, 12 years after she first enrolled.

Both heartfelt and heartbreaking are the accounts of the author’s everyday struggles to get to class on time or take notes quickly enough, due to the physical limitations imposed by the cerebral palsy. At one point, she was so discouraged, she dropped out of college.

When she returned to PCCC and discovered her talent for writing, with the support of a caring counselor and dedicated professor, Juana reclaimed her academic dreams and continued on to earn her bachelor’s degree in English from William Paterson University.

I Made It introduces readers to a young woman who defied her disabilities and the limitations others tried to impose on her in order to build a life on her own terms. She attended her high school prom, fell in love, moved into her own apartment, and formed a non-profit organization to help others.

A book signing will be held Thursday, November 19 from 7:00 – 9:30 pm at the Association Pro Desarrollo de Ranchete Social Club at 38 Park Avenue in Paterson. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.  For information, call 973-942-4347 or 862-600-5415.

The book is also available from the publisher, Author House, and from Amazon.com

A television interview with Juana is tentatively scheduled for a Thanksgiving Day broadcast on Univision. Check local listings for details.

   Juana Ortiz will appear at PCCC on March 3, 2016   
for Women's History Month.
Watch here for details.