Shirley Ortez

Last updated: 2006

Shirley Ortez

2006 Beat the Odds Honoree

Shirley Ortez was five years old when both of her parents died of AIDS. Her mother knew that she was sick and asked her cousin to take responsibility for raising Shirley and her younger brother. Her cousin did not hesitate to give Shirley and her brother a new home. This home includes a host of cousins that provide Shirley with the family support that she needs to make it through each day. Last year Shirley suffered another crushing blow when her best friend died from AIDS. Shirley and her best friend met at Camp Laurel, a camp for young people whose lives are in some way affected by HIV/AIDS. The two girls shared a unique bond, and this most recent loss could have devastated even the strongest adults, but not Shirley. Shirley is ready to face any obstacle that stands in front of her. Sometimes Shirley’s obstacle is not letting her life challenges stop her from being successful in school. According to Shirley’s counselor, “She has never not tried. She is dedicated to her studies even when her grades are not the grades she wants, she puts in her time and does her best.” This determined spirit is likely the reason that Shirley says, “I am unstoppable and in the end I will conquer life, not only for myself but for the beautiful family I have now and for the loveable brother who is always there when I need a friend the most.” When Shirley finishes high school she wants to become a criminologist and work as an outreach representative for HIV and AIDS education. Shirley is a dynamic young woman who has committed her life to her family and to helping people living with AIDS. The Children’s Defense Fund is very proud to honor Shirley as a 2006 CDF Beat the Odds® recipient.