Echo Park resident Letisia Ruiz was a troubled teen who dropped out of school and became a single mother. She endured several struggles throughout her life but proved you can turn it around with ambition and dreams.
Now, she is Officer Letty Ruiz – a respected member of the Los Angeles Police Department and she's using her life experiences to help other troubled teenagers who may not have guidance.
"I ran away from home at a young age," the LAPD Sergeant said.
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Ruiz left home at 12-years-old and never lost sight of her dreams or did not give up.
"I felt I needed to provide a better life and future for my child," she said.
In order to achieve her ambition, she finished school and went to college, where she realized the career path she wanted to follow.
"In my senior year, I knew that's when I wanted to apply for LAPD and nothing else," Ruiz said.
After graduating from the police academy, Ruiz moved up the ranks and earned her title as a Sergeant in 2015.
"It was a calling for me to just join the department and somehow try to give back," she said. "I didn’t know exactly how."
She found her answer in Bigs in Blue – the LAPD’s partnership with Big Brothers and Sisters.
"I got a Little," Ruiz said. "Her name is Sarah."
Now, Sarah Cifuentez has a role model and Ruiz has someone she can guide. The two are a perfect fit!
"She looks like me," Ruiz said. "She's almost as tall as me so it's almost like seeing myself in the mirror. By mentoring her, I think I am doing a service not only for her and her family, but to the community as well because she will grow up to be someone successful."
Cifuentez looks up to Ruiz and knows she's reliable.
"I have older sisters, but they are always usually busy and I know I can count on Leticia if I need someone," Cifuentez said. "I always hear stories from my mom that it’s hard once you run away. It’s hard to build your life back up and for her to be a sergeant is impressive."
Ruiz has one word of advice for those who want to make a difference:
"Sometimes, if you want to make a change, you have to get in there and be that change," she said.