How Estiven made it

Teachers and mentors at a New York City school helped a Dominican immigrant prepare for college, said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.

Estiven Rodriguez, a collegebound senior at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning High School (WHEELS), tells Chalkbeat New York (formerly Gotham Schools) how his parents gave up a comfortable life in the Dominican Republic so their sons could have a better future.

On the first day of sixth grade, he understood nothing.

I had two choices. I was either going to complain about it or it was…the way out: learning English, putting in 120 percent and just focusing on that.

So I decided that if my family is working so hard just to be here, like, why can’t I do this? This should be easy for me. If I have to watch TV in English, if I have to go to my aunt’s house, who’s a teacher, for help, I’m going to go. If I have to stay after school until four — or some teachers even met with me an hour before school started —  I was just going to do whatever it took to succeed.

Estiven’s parents gave him the motivation. WHEELS “teachers who are committed to help you at any cost,” says Estiven. “I remember someone stayed with me until 7pm just to help me.” He’s going to Dickinson on a full scholarship.

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