A Dream of Something Better
(R) Jonatan Castillo, Cohort VIII, Lakeside Senior, (L) Diego Merlos, Cohort XII
Like so many other students before me, Rainier Scholars has changed my life. I am part of a community of scholars who strive for academic excellence and will defy the odds to earn a college degree. I am surrounded by people who are invested in my success and I have access to opportunities that have changed how I think about my future.
I came to this country in 2005 with my mom and my sister. We moved from Mexico City to join my father who had found a job as a construction worker. My father always told me that education and school would come first no matter what and my father spoke with wisdom. Both he and my mom had to quit school and never earned their high school diploma, but they had a vision for me and my sister, believing that education would be the key to a better future. My mother and father make sacrifices every day to ensure this will happen.
People may remember me as a quiet and scared 7th grader in the academic program, but what I remember is for the first time in my life I was surrounded by other kids like me, kids who liked school and believed in getting a good education. There were times growing up where I had to pretend I didn't like school just to fit in. But at Rainier Scholars it was OK to be smart, however that didn't mean it was easy. It was hard work and there were endless amounts of homework. Even though I liked the challenge, there were times when I wanted to quit. My father would tell me "I know it's hard right now but remember you are working for your future," so I persevered.
Rainier Scholars has helped me build a plan for my future. I am surrounded by powerful role models who help me envision what is possible. My student adviser, Myles Jones, served as a mentor, someone to look up to who understood the struggle. I am now a student adviser in the 14-month program working with 6th graders and I see myself in my boys. They are learning to have confidence in their abilities. They are learning to persevere and work hard and they know I believe in them.
As the son of a construction worker with a 9th grade education, I never imagined attending a school like Lakeside. I never imagined creating my list of college choices and including schools from around the country and I never thought a career in engineering was a possibility. Rainier Scholars has opened new doors and expanded my horizons. My world is bigger. I have also learned I am a Math and Science guy. I like to take things apart, fix things and see how they work. My dad uses his hands to build things, that's important work. I'd like to use my skills and abilities to design things and understand how systems work. I want to help solve problems and take on new challenges. I want to make my mom and dad proud.
When I think back, it all started with two parents who had a dream of something better for their children. Their love and vision combined with the support and opportunities from Rainier Scholars has changed my future.
Jonatan shared his story at Skanska's annual Bricks & Books Auction October 2, 2014.