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.
Photos and interviews by us, word portraits written by Jonathan Schorr.
Juan knows that appearances can be deceiving – starting with his own.
People figure that Juan, with his easy smile and preppy good looks, has had it easy. But, he says, “I don’t always have a smile on my face, and I have had it pretty rough.”
He reels off the facts of his childhood: his parents’ divorce, his mother’s disappearance after one custodial visit, the move to Mexico and back, his sister’s threats against his father’s girlfriend, her suicide attempt, the cops, the social workers. In school, teachers who knew his story passed him along – barely. When he thought about his future, he figured, “I’m probably going to be like my dad, having two jobs at the same time, getting low pay.”
But a change in schools changed everything. He felt for the first time at Alliance Technology and Math Science that his teachers listened and cared – and he needed to reciprocate. He decided “to be a nerd … to focus on my work, rather than on being the cool guy.”
A job of responsibility cemented the shift. “When they turned me into a lead tutor, I thought, ‘… I could change my life. I could be the opposite of what my parents had to go through. My children won’t have to go through the things that I’ve been through.’ ”
Occasionally, Juan is still tempted to revert to “the person I was before–the cool, failing guy.” But, he says, “I don’t want to be that person again. I’m proud of myself that I didn’t go that way. I want to have the life that I want to have. I have all the stuff that I need to have to have a good life.”
Hear the story of how the education reform movement is transforming lives: