Eight years ago, a Downtown College Prep senior named Luis Falcon was attacked by gang members in a San Jose park. Stabbed nine times, he lost a kidney and spent a week in a coma. He learned how to walk again. He will earn a degree in history from the University of California at Santa Cruz in May, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel. A Teach for America corps member, Falcon will return to his old neighborhood to teach history at DCP.
Lying in the hospital for a month after the attack, Falcon started to think about his neighborhood.”Something needed to change in my neighborhood and maybe I could be that little spark,” he said.
Undocumented and ineligible for college aid, he enrolled at San Jose City College but dropped out after one semester. “I was just paranoid I was going to get attacked.”
After working in a factory for two years, Falcon returned to community college. He also tutored at a charter middle school and worked in DCP’s summer bridge program. He legalized his status and earned a scholarship to UC-Santa Cruz.
Jennifer Andaluz, DCP’s executive director, has known Falcon since he was in ninth grade. He has the “grit” teachers need to succeed, she told the Sentinel. “It’s about developing a mindset where you can actually grow in the areas where you currently struggle, and that growth is only going to come about as a result of hard work,” Andaluz said.
I write about Downtown College Prep’s early years in Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds.