Christian and his father have known many closed doors.
After a medical discharge from the US Army, Christian’s father began a heating and air conditioning business. For a time, the business grew, and things were going well.
Christian’s mother, however, had developed a worsening drug habit. His worried father often woke up in the middle of the night, fearing he would find her dead from an overdose.
“My father,” Christian says, “gave my mother an ultimatum: it was either us or the drugs.
“She chose the drugs,” he remembers.
When his mother made her choice, Christian was all of eight.
A month after she left, Christian’s father encouraged him to visit her at his grandmother’s home, where his mother had been staying. Though deeply disappointed in her and not wanting to see her, he went. He spotted the family vehicle in the driveway of his grandmother’s house, but when he knocked on the door, no one answered. Then, he spotted a window curtain move and plainly heard his mother’s voice: “Don’t open the door.”
Shortly thereafter, Christian’s father got sick with pancreatitis. He was weakened and unable to work. Christian had to learn to care for his father, cooking small meals and helping his father to and from the restroom.
Christian’s mother, meanwhile, gutted the family’s savings account.
With no savings and no income, Christian and his father eventually saw the electricity cut and the water shut off. Baths were taken using gallons of water purchased from the store, meals were cooked by the grill, and clothes went unwashed. Christian’s homework had to be done while the sun was still up. He was bullied at school for his unwashed clothes.
Thanks to the generosity of their local Catholic church, Christian and his father received enough money to turn the electricity and water back on. His father could pay for the medical treatment he needed. Christian and his father felt stronger in their faith, and they continued to enjoy cooking out on the grill—which had become a bonding activity for them.
During his junior year, Christian was doing well. He was keeping up with his studies and excelling in a welding program. However, their home of many years was falling apart. The landlord, unwilling to cover the costs of repairs prescribed by the housing authority, locked Christian and his father out of their home. They could not afford the deposit on a new place to live.
For a month, Christian and his father were homeless, and they slept behind dumpsters. When they did find an apartment, it was in bad shape. Need forced them to take it.
Two more obstacles stood in their way. Following multiple ignored requests to address the apartment’s safety hazards, Christian’s father tripped on the ripped carpet in their living room, injuring his knees and losing some mobility.
“I’d had enough,” Christian recalls. He felt that, because of his family’s limited resources, they were being overlooked. Motivated to right a wrong, he made a close study of the lease: the landlord was in violation of the Fair and Equal Housing Act. Christian took action. Thanks to his advocacy with the housing authority, Christian’s father’s medical expenses were covered by the property management’s insurance provider, and a state inspector made an inspection of the entire property.
Still there was the second obstacle. Because he had missed too many days of school during their month of homelessness, Christian faced repeating his junior year. It was a blow.
Friends told him about Texans Can Academies and its accelerated curriculum recovery. When he and his father came for enrollment, however, they thought they had encountered yet another closed door—the school required uniforms, and he and his father could not afford it. They prepared to walk away.
Thanks to the school’s Whole Student program, however, Christian’s uniform was paid for. The same day, the school’s principal met with Christian and his father and took them to lunch in the cafeteria.
“That meant a lot to us,” Christian says.
The very next day, Christian was able to start school and get back on track.
From then on, Christian experienced the school’s generous welcome. When food was scarce, he availed himself of the school’s food pantry, and, in the classroom, he found the academic support he needed.
“The staff at Can have been great. They have shown me so much hospitality. My history teacher, Mr. Rodriguez, helped and encouraged me. He was very straightforward and set high expectations for me.”
“Because of the Can, I didn’t have to repeat my junior year,” he says.
Christian graduated from Texans Can in June 2019, and, taking advantage of the GI Bill and a scholarship made possible by proceeds from an annual community luncheon, has enrolled in St. Philip’s College’s pre-law program.
Christian and his father continue to enjoy cooking out on the grill together, and, with faith in God, they both look forward to a future of open doors.
“I am thankful the Can was there for me. I know I have a lot more to give, and a lot more to achieve.”