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Houston Can! Student Graduates From Football to the Firehouse
A Story to be Told, A Story to be Heard
All my life I have had to overcome problems that I thought would never happen to me. I was born with asthma, and my little brother was born with Downs Syndrome. We are both black males, poor, and grew up in a bad neighborhood; we were born into problems. To top it off, a problem that I am still trying to overcome is the hard fight my mother put up against cancer for ten years leading to her ultimate death. She died on May 17, 2009. It still affects me every day of my life.
That next year was one of the hardest years of my life. We were poorer than poor, living in Mason Manor trying to make it while my mama worked two jobs. She was then laid off because her employer felt she was supposed to enjoy her last days with her kids. No one could say the words “yo mama” without catching my fist in their teeth. That caused us to do a lot of moving. It seemed every school I went to there was always that one person who would always say it and make me mad.
By 8th grade my mom thought it would be a good idea to move us to Pflugerville. It was a rough year, but I barely made it through. That summer my mama spent a lot of time in and out the hospital with medical procedures. It was now the first day of school at Pflugerville High. I made it through, went to football practice and ended up fighting with this guy. Luckily, I wasn’t suspended. The next day at school his homeboy approached me and said, “Let me see you do me like that…!” I didn’t say anything. I just started throwing a flurry of punches until he hit the floor. Then the whole football team jumped me in the main hallway. I injured three guys, so they expelled me and from the school district. The school called my mother out of bed to come get me. This only frazzled her more.
I had to learn to control myself a little more. We ended up moving to some apartments. I transferred to another high school. The first year and a half there went alright, aside from the fact I was still slowly losing my mother. It was starting to be clearer that she would not be around for as long as I had thought. But I was going to school and taking care of business, the most important thing. Soon enough, the second semester of my sophomore year I was kicked out of high school for being an alleged gang member.
That brought me to Austin Can! for a little while. It helped me out at the time by attending the PM session. In the morning I would take care of my mom, go to school from 12 to 4 and go straight back home to take care of her some more. That gave us alot of time to make memories. I finished the school year at Austin Can! with no problem. The following school year I decided to go back to my home high school, worst idea of my life. One day I had noone to call because I had just checked my mom into Seton hospital for her chemotherapy. That was the day I was expelled from AISD for gang relation and failure to ID.
For two weeks I was out of school and in the hospital with my mother, watching her fade away slowly. Soon after she was shipped to San Antonio to a hospital specializing in cancer. She died in that hospital May 17, 2009. I made a promise to my mother that I would graduate and attend college so I could be rich and take care of her. I graduated from Austin Can! this past spring and kept my promise to my Mom, now I have to work on the second half of the promise.
In Their Own Words: AJ
Perseverance Pays Off for Graduate
From high school dropout to high school graduate, Ignacio is now on his way to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
“Growing up I didn’t really have much. My mom is a single mother of two, I haven't seen my dad in 10 years, but she always tried her best to support us. She worked any and every job she could, like picking tomatoes until she was 7 months pregnant, then moving to a tractor position because her belly was too big to bend down. She has also held construction jobs in downtown Dallas.”
“I was usually home alone so I started to go to my friends for a sense of security that’s why I decided to join a gang. I just started following in my brothers footsteps. I started smoking a lot and doing reckless things.”
After struggling at his previous high school and lacking the sense of support that he craved from the administration, Ignacio decided to drop out. He worked at Dairy Queen for a year and even got offered a managerial position.
“Then one day I realized I didn’t want to disappoint my mom anymore. I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.”
“My mom came to this country as an immigrant and I wanted to show her that all her effort wasn't for nothing. That’s why I get up every day and try to do my best.”
So he followed in his brother’s footsteps again, this time for all the right reasons. His brother graduated from Texans Can Academies and his family recommended he do the same if he really wanted to turn his life around.
“Texans Can was my second chance. A second opportunity that you can’t take for granted. Although some people think of this school as a school for all the mess ups, it’s not. The people here are helping us get somewhere, to be someone in life. I’m not afraid to say that I’m from Texans Can.”
“The teachers and advisors here do the most to make sure I’m making the right choices.”
“My advisor Mrs. Randle would text me if I was late to school and even ask if I needed a ride. She’s always there for me trying to get me to school. Especially when I had surgery a month ago and I would be late because I had to go to therapy. She would tell me to go to the PM shift if I couldn't make it that morning.”
“My teacher Mr. Vasquez, even calls me his son. Another advisor Mrs. Machuca offered me two jobs and took me on college visits.”
“They’ve made such a big difference in my life and are always looking out for you. They’re the reason I come to school every day.”
Ignacio has always had a keen sense of ambition. He always knew what he wanted. When he found out about the CNA program offered at the Can Academies, he was eager to get his life back on track, to finally make his mom proud.
“My whole life I’ve always been a little science nerd. It came so naturally to me.”
“When I enrolled here I was actually too late to get in the anatomy class. So I just started reading on my own, about body systems and how they function. It never ceases to amaze me how such an intricate system works together to make up who we are. I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field.”
Ignacio will take his CNA certification in the spring and will be a first-generation college.
“I want to use the CNA program as a step towards my future career, as a foundation to my future. I just really like caring for people. I always think of others before myself.”
“I’m not proud of who I was before, but it’s brought me where I am today. I honestly would’ve never graduated high school if it wasn’t for the Can Academies.”
“I was making good money at DQ or thought I was. It was enough to get me by. I just never had anyone guide me to get to higher places. I’ve always had goals, but never knew how to achieve them.”
“The people here actually help me, they actually care about my life and where I go afterwards. I’ve never had that before.”