I am a 10th grader at Austin High School. I have been a Breakthrough student for the past four years, ever since I was a 6th grader at Zavala elementary. I am glad to be here to talk to you.

When I was young, all I ever wanted to do was play sports. I started when I was 3 playing baseball. By the time I was 6 years old, I also played basketball and football.  I wanted to be a sports star and a professional athlete. Even when I started middle school, I still only thought about going to the NFL and making lots of money for me and for my mom.  The thing about my mom is, she always told me that I would go to college one day but, at the time, I didn’t want to think about it. Probably because I didn’t want to do all that work and school was always kind of hard.  I knew I wasn’t the best in my class. There was always someone who could do math faster or read longer words, but I never gave up. I still remember the hours doing homework in my room with my mom’s help. One time I even had a spelling test and couldn’t spell the word “pumpkin.” I ended up writing it over and over again until I finally got it right on my quiz. Even though I complained and struggled, I really had no choice because my mom didn’t let me stop. Thanks mom.

The biggest obstacle I faced was learning how to be successful even though I didn’t have all the support that some students have. My mom has always been my rock, always pushing me and telling me, sometimes even nagging me, to do my best in school so I could go to college. But to be honest, my dad wasn’t there.  Like all little kids, I wanted to be better and do something with my life, but didn’t have the dad figure to look up to.  I would see my friends or cousins interacting with their dads and it would sometimes make me feel bad, like I was a disappointment. Being in sports made me forget about all that and made me feel like I belonged. I dreamed of being on the field all day long, of being in a place where, at least in my little kid mind, I was really good at something. As I got older I started to figure out something that now seems really obvious. No matter how good I thought I was, I won’t be able to play football forever. Those words my mom used to say to me about how I need to do my best in school and go to college started to sink in and I realized she was probably right. In fact, I remember the exact moment in Mr. Estrada’s 6th grade class in Zavala when two Breakthrough advisors, Jennifer and Ana, came to talk to the class about this program that can help me go to college. I thought to myself, “This is what my mom is talking about. This will make her proud.”  I took an application home and I swear the first words that came out of her mouth when she saw it were, “This is it! This is your chance!”

The last 4 years being in Breakthrough have been crazy, yet still amazing. From the first day I stepped into an auditorium at UT for the summer program, I felt shocked to see all the kids and teachers jumping around cheering. The only ones who weren’t acting crazy were the other new kids. We looked at each other like, “Uh, what did we get ourselves into?” By the end of the 6 weeks of learning, building friendships, and connecting with the Breakthrough family, I was no longer one of the quiet ones. I finished the summer with new best friends and a feeling of confidence that I could meet new people and learn new things. When I started high school at Austin High (Go Maroons!), I thought I was ready but I wasn’t. The classes were really challenging and the school was overwhelming – I was one of 700 freshmen!  I remember my Breakthrough advisor, Natalie, calling me up the first week of school to check to make sure I had everything I needed and we set a schedule for when she’d come see me at school and talk during the Saturday programs. At first I thought I didn’t need it and she was just nagging me, like my mom. But she really cares about how I do and I started listening to her advice and going to tutoring after school. Thanks, Natalie.

Right now, I’m proud to say that I have the confidence to be my own person and that I care a lot more about school.  I’ve learned to be more organized, to talk to teachers about my work, and to be more responsible by doing my homework and assignments.  At Austin High, I’m passing all of my classes and, most importantly, I feel that I’m no longer the one who is behind in school.  I even plan to apply for a leadership position at (continued on back)      Austin High called Link Crew, so that I can mentor the new freshman and help them learn from my experience. I’m also proud to say that my dad still wants to be in my life and I now get to see him regularly. He gave me this amazing advice, “prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” I feel like for my whole life, I just wanted to be a kid. But now I am starting to become an adult and I need to start embracing it. In just a couple years I will graduate Austin High and head off to college.

I want to stay close to home because my family is everything, so I plan on attending a great school like Texas State or the University of Texas. I know that I won’t be able to keep playing sports in college but now I’ve started to find a new passion: writing music. Just last year at one of the Breakthrough 9th Grade Saturdays, I heard some amazing slam poets perform their writing and I was asked to write my first poem. From that day on, I was hooked and now I write regularly, mostly in the form of song lyrics. I’m writing about myself and connecting it to other people and how other people are – how real life is. I realize that I care a lot about connecting to other people in real ways. Perhaps I’ll be a counselor and give back by listening to people and help them with their problems.

Breakthrough has helped me realize that there are many things I can do with my life, that I can go to college and become the man I was meant to be. Thank you for listening to my life story and thank you to Breakthrough for making my dreams come true. Nothing is impossible.