As she trudged with her mother back to the shelter, Alicia Zamora practiced her reading on billboards. She counted bathroom tiles with her brother for fun. Sometimes she even pored over the nutrition facts on the back of a box of crackers or apple juice. She also remembers going without food at all.
Alicia had trouble hearing in school, plagued with ear infections that her mother chalked up to the stuffy air in the homeless shelter. They were lucky to get a room of their own, but her mom was so leery of the used beds that she bought an air mattress for them to sleep on. Alicia got in trouble when she popped it.
Fourteen years later, it would be easy for Alicia to shelve those memories away. Now she is known as the Madison High valedictorian, the prom queen, the girl going on to Harvard University. But that world has never drifted far from her mind. You can still hear it there, even as she rhapsodizes about college.