It can be scary coming to a new school. But for me, it was good that my brother was already here at George I. Sanchez Charter School. My mother had to bring my brother to AAMA after he got into trouble and was kicked out of our middle school. So it was easier for her to have us both here, once I started high school.
I love my brother, and even though he sometimes got me into things that I felt really bad about, his friends were my friends, and I liked being around him.
Until one day, he did something really bad and he was sent to jail.
My science teacher, Mr. Wong, asked me, “Who are you Gustavo? You're not your brother. You have one foot on the right path and one foot on the wrong path, and you need to make a choice.”
He made me think. Drugs and gangs were not what I was about. I always wanted to go to college, and now I had to go to college. That's the only way that I could help my brother.
In the eleventh grade, I had Mr. Ramirez for math. He had a diploma on his wall and every day he would tell us, “If you want to be someone, you have to have a diploma like this from THE university.” He would say, “This is mine, and it's not from just any university, it's from THE University of Texas.”
I knew then, I had to have a diploma like that, to make my mother proud; and it wouldn't be from just any university, I wanted it to be from THE University of Texas.”
Finally, I know who I am. I am in my second year of college, studying Human Development at THE University of Texas. I want to be a counselor, and help young people like me and like my brother, who are really good people, who just make bad choices.
Even though my brother is not in a good place right now, he tells me not to worry about him, and that he's really proud of me. I'm proud too, and I know that my future is going to be AAMAzing.
Aracely: My sister and I dropped out of Austin High School in the tenth and eleventh grade. It was a big school and no one really cared one way or another.
Ana: Our mother is a single mom, our father died when we were 4 and 5 years old. My mom was disappointed we weren't going to finish school, but she understood.
Our lives at that point, were work and partying. Then one day my sister had an idea.
Aracely: “We should go back to school and get our GED.” I told my sister, “I'm going to do it, but I want you to go with me.” So we went to AAMA to enroll in the Adelante program.
Ana: Sometimes it was really hard, but our instructor, Wendell Webster helped us a lot. There were times we couldn't come to class because of work, and he would call to check on us and kept us motivated to pass all 5 tests for our GED.
Aracely: So by August 2013, we had passed all of our tests to receive our GED certificate. At the Graduation, we were selected to give the speech as representatives of the English GED class. We had another reason to get our certificate as quickly as possible. Mr. Webster wanted us to participate in a transitions class that would enroll us at Houston Community College.
Ana: Right after graduation we started our first class at HCC. We went as a group, but it was hard to believe we were on campus with people of all ages studying all kinds of careers. By the end of the class we had a degree plan and even financial aid to help pay for almost everything.
Aracely: Each semester after that has been even more exciting. When I studied psychology, I wanted to be a psychologist, when we studied math, I wanted to be a math teacher. This year we are finishing our basic courses and we have a plan to transition to four year programs. My sister Ana, is applying to nursing school at UT.
Ana: And Aracely is applying to UT Dental School to be a Dental Hygienist. Our lives today are all about studying and more studying. We have a pact – no boyfriends until we finish! We also have a plan, it's not easy, but one thing is for sure...
Ana and Aracely: … next year is going to be even more AAMAzing!
I didn't come to AAMA because I wanted to; I was having fun skipping school, getting high and hanging out with my friends. My parents were going through a divorce and it felt like no one was paying attention to me. All of a sudden there was too much attention.
Sometimes I just had to get away and I wouldn't come home. We started coming to AAMA for counseling, my whole family – my mother, my father, my sister and brother. I was faking my drug tests, but they knew something wasn't right.
I met Hope at AAMA. She started random testing me, and I couldn't keep up. I started coming up 'dirty.' Hope warned me if I came up dirty again, they would send me to rehab in San Antonio. She would ask me, “Why do you behave as if you aren't worth anything. Don't you think you're worth something?
I didn’t have an answer at the time. My parents told me that I had a choice, either jail or Selena House in San Antonio. It was hard at first. I was mad, but eventually, I started talking and sharing with the other girls.
I finally got what Hope was saying to me. I realized I had a family who really did care, and lots of other people who cared and also believed that I was worth something. I can’t believe I did so many things that put me in danger.
One day a lady came to visit the house in San Antonio, and she asked if anyone was getting ready to go home. I raised my hand, and she gave me a card and told me that if I needed anything in Houston, I should come to AAMA and look for her.
That was good, because when I came home to Houston, no school on my side of town would take me because of my past. I remembered the card, and we came to AAMA again, to see if George I. Sanchez Charter School would accept me.
I couldn't believe how nice they were and how welcome I felt. I caught up in my classes and if I had bad days, there was a drug counselor right there at the school that would help me. Sometimes I run into Hope, and I've told her how different life is now.
Today, I’m on track to graduate in 2015. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to be, but I do know that for me, tomorrow is going to be AAMAzing!