All this week we’re sharing the photo essays we created for the New Schools Venture Fund Summit. These stories were shared with 1000 leaders of education reform.
In gentle and cautious words, Donaldo makes clear that the life he now expects is very different from the one that could have been.
Donaldo’s father died a few years ago, under circumstances he doesn’t know much about. He had been sick, and when he died, it took a year for Donaldo to find out. Yet his stepfather, he says, has been a good father to him.
“If not for him, I’d probably be dead,” Donaldo says. Speaking haltingly, he adds, “I could have just, gotten into a gang nearby, or I could have just” – he pauses—“gone downhill.”
In his neighborhood in Lincoln Heights, Donaldo explains, deadly violence is not unusual. “Whenever there was gunfire, my mother would hold me and drop to the ground.” As a small child, he feared going outside, because “it might be violent.”
But if his parents kept him from dying, it was his school that changed his sense of what his life was worth.
“This school has completely changed me and how I think about the world too,” he says. “When I was little, I thought, ‘Why am I even here?’ But this school made me realize that I’m here for a reason.”
Donaldo now aims to train as a lawyer, and serve as a prosecutor. “Now I see I can be whatever I want,” he says. “I can be something bigger. In college, I’m hoping to go to Princeton or UCLA. And now I see myself as something greater, not just trash.”
He adds, “I want to show the world that I can make it a better place—that people like me can make it a better place.”
Hear the story of how the education reform movement is transforming lives: