Special Report
College & Workforce Readiness

Chicago Teen Goes From Dropout to Top Student

By Lesli A. Maxwell — May 31, 2013 2 min read
Andrew Delgado, a student at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School, discusses a geometry problem with one of his teachers. The graduating senior has already enrolled at Malcolm X Community College in Chicago, where he will work toward an associate degree in criminal justice.

Looking at Andrew Delgado’s profile on paper, few educators would have expected this 19-year-old former dropout to be in contention for valedictorian of the class of 2013.

He was a high school dropout at 16, a teenage father to a young son, and someone who thought a GED certificate was the best he could expect for himself. Plus, Delgado’s first encounter with the principal at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School came when he was thrown out of its graduation ceremony last year.

Matthew Rodriguez, the principal of the 150-student Campos school, remembers how Delgado “caused a major disruption” at the event when he and the mother of his son, who was graduating that day, began screaming at one another. “When he came to me later in the summer to apply, I told him, ‘Hell no,’ ” Rodriguez recalls. But Delgado persisted and wrote an essay that persuaded Rodriguez to give him a chance.

Now, nine months later, he’s vying with one other student to finish at the top of the graduating class. He plays on the school basketball team and has A’s and B’s in his courses. He has completed a senior portfolio and applied to six colleges.

“If I get this, I’ll be the first student-father to be valedictorian,” Delgado says.

He has already enrolled at Malcolm X College in Chicago, where he will work toward an associate degree in criminal justice. Later, Delgado wants to transfer to Monmouth College in northwest Illinois to try for a four-year degree in that field.

Three students who dropped out of Chicago high schools found a path to graduation at a Youth Connection Charter School—a network of schools that specialize in serving recovered dropouts or students at high risk of not earning a diploma.

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, Campos has long partnered with the Lolita Lebrón Family Learning Center. The center provides onsite bilingual child-care services for students with young children, as well as parenting classes, family-literacy workshops, and time built into the school day for student-parents to interact with their children, says Danette Sokacich, the assistant principal at Campos and the director of the family-learning center.

And the school puts a heavy emphasis on community building and service, in addition to academics. Urban agriculture and social ecology are major themes, where students engage in project-based learning. After a study showed the surrounding Humboldt Park neighborhood to be a “food desert,” with little access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Campos a few years ago launched an urban agriculture initiative. Through their science, math, and social science courses, students have created a community-development plan that led to a new, rooftop greenhouse at the school and neighborhood gardens that students maintain.

See Also

Read more about the Youth Connection Charter Schools that specialize in giving students second chances: Chicago Charter Network Specializes in Dropouts.

Delgado, who still sees his old friends from Roberto Clemente High, says he often fends off assumptions that Campos “isn’t a real school.”

“The reality is, though, that I’ve had to work harder here than anyone ever asked me to work at Clemente,” he says. “There aren’t excuses for not taking school and being part of this community seriously. But there is a lot of help to get you there.”

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion I'm a First-Generation American. Here's What Helped Me Make It to College
A college junior shares three ways to help immigrant and first-generation students succeed in education.
Roni Lezama
4 min read
Supportive hand holds up a student who is reaching for a star
iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Documentary A Year Interrupted
When COVID-19 closed schools for millions of students, Education Week documented two seniors as they faced an uncertain future.
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness Even Before Pandemic, National Test Finds Most Seniors Unready for College Reading, Math
Little more than 1 in 3 American 12th graders read proficiently and fewer than 1 in 4 performed proficiently in math on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
2 min read
College & Workforce Readiness COVID-19's Disproportionate Toll on Class of 2020 Graduates
The pandemic hit college-bound members of the class of 2020 from low-income homes much harder than it did their better-off peers, our survey found.
6 min read
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from high school this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently taking online community college classes.
Magdalena Estiverne graduated from high school this past spring during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently taking online community college classes.
Eve Edelheit for Education Week