May Magazines 2018 89135 - Page 66

Making a Difference “I experienced a lot of bullying, and no one liked me very much. It was hard, I had no one…I started wondering what was the point in graduating,” said Sosa, who spent three years in Junior ROTC before joining JAG. As an immigrant, Sosa found it difficult to fit in with new classmates in a new country. He became mean, explosive, and easily provoked, starting his fair share of fights. The isolation proved too much, and he fell prey to deep depression and withdrew. Yet, once he joined JAG and met his specialists Josh Arredondo and Gina Rivera, Sosa found acceptance that gave him a renewed outlook. “My mentors told me I wasn’t just destroying my life; my actions were hurting others. That really hit me. I was so scared of other people hurting me, I created a shield and would hurt people first,” said Sosa. “For the first time, they helped me care about myself and my future, and I’ve been accepted to multiple colleges. People say that I’ve done a 180: I’m nice, I care, I listen to others. Once I let people in, I became a social person my senior year.” An integral part of the program’s success lies in its JAG specialists who wear multiple hats: they are teachers, mentors, parents, friends, cheerleaders, and compassionate individuals. “There is no barrier too big or too small for our JAG specialists, they will help students confront it,” said Cantu. “If we have a homeless student, the specialist will seek resources that provide temporary housing, clothing, and food so they can make it to class; if a student has a high absentee rate, the specialist will call them every morning and pop into their classes throughout the day to make sure they are present.” Gales, who is set to graduate from Bonanza High School in May, felt that bond early on with his specialist, Dion Lee. Gales found someone who believed in him, kept him accountable, and most importantly, didn’t judge his past mistakes. Isabelle West at Tesla. town from his school, but his quest for a high school diploma and his special relationship with his specialist gets him up every morning to take the two-hour bus ride to Bonanza High School. “Mr. Lee changed my way of thinking and the way I view life,” said Gales. “I am not stuck because of my circumstances. With hard work and discipline, I can achieve anything I want to and right now I want my high school diploma. My mother and older siblings never got their diplomas, so I feel like I have a lot of weight on my shoulders to achieve this, but I will not let anything get in my way. I also want to set a positive example for my younger siblings and let them know it’s possible.” Gales gets his incredible work ethic from his mother, who taught him first-hand about sacrifice. “My mom is my hero. She always puts her six children before herself, and even though she wasn’t dealt the best cards in life, she never gave up. I owe everything to her, and my future success will also be hers.” Making a Difference “My mom, who is a single mother to six children, moved my siblings and I to Las Vegas from California,” said Gales. “We are constantly moving from place to place, and we’ve been homeless a few times. Being a middle child, I had to grow up quick to take care of my younger siblings while my mom was working to provide for our family.” In middle school, Gales was always causing trouble. He was expelled after a fight with another student and forced to undergo a three-month boot camp program, which he describes as “brutal.” In high school, he was introduced to Lee, who is also his football coach. Gales currently lives in a weekly motel across What differentiates JAG Nevada from other graduation programs is that JAG specialists continue to mentor the student during their first year after graduating to ensure a successful transition into life after high school. “One of our star alums is Isabelle West, who took a chance and joined other JAG students traveling to the Tesla Gigafactory in Reno for job interviews,” said Cantu. “Being on the line at the Gigafactory and working alongside engineers sparked her interest in engineering. Now Isabelle is attending Truckee Meadows Community College, learning coding, and she now aspires to become an engineer and continue her work at Tesla.” 66 May/June 2018 Making a Difference “I experienced a lot of bullying, and no one liked me very much. It was hard, I had no one…I started wondering what was the point in graduating,” said Sosa, who spent three years in Junior ROTC before joining JAG. As an immigrant, Sosa found it difficult to fit in with new class- mates in a new country. He became mean, explosive, and easily provoked, starting his fair share of fights. The isolation proved too much, and he fell prey to deep depression and withdrew. Yet, once he joined JAG and met his specialists Josh Arredondo and Gina Rivera, Sosa found acceptance that gave him a renewed outlook. “My mentors told me I wasn’t just destroying my life; my actions were hurting others. That really hit me. I was so scared of other people hurting me, I created a shield and would hurt people first,” said Sosa. “For the first time, they helped me care about myself and my future, and I’ve been accepted to multi- ple colleges. People say that I’ve done a 180: I’m nice, I care, I listen to others. Once I let people in, I became a social person my senior year.” An integral part of the program’s success lies in its JAG special- ists who wear multiple hats: they are teachers, mentors, par- ents, friends, cheerleaders, and compassionate individuals. “There is no barrier too big or too small for our JAG specialists, they will help students confront it,” said Cantu. “If we have a homeless student, the specialist will seek resources that pro- vide temporary housing, clothing, and food so they can make it to class; if a student has a high absentee rate, the specialist will call them every morning and pop into their classes throughout the day to make sure they are present.” Gales, who is set to graduate from Bonanza High School in May, felt that bond early on with his specialist, Dion Lee. Gales found someone who believed in him, kept him accountable, and most importantly, didn’t judge his past mistakes. “My mom, who is a single mother to six children, moved my sib- lings and I to Las Vegas from California,” said Gales. “We are constantly moving from place to place, and we’ve been home- less a few times. Being a middle child, I had to grow up quick to take care of my younger siblings while my mom was working to provide for our family.” In middle school, Gales was always causing trouble. He was expelled after a fight with another student and forced to under- go a three-month boot camp program, which he describes as “brutal.” In high school, he was introduced to Lee, who is also his football coach. 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