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.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
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
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Biden Administration Urges Schools to Expand Apprenticeships and Career Learning
In too many schools, "it's a four-year college or bust mentality," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.
4 min read
First Lady Jill Biden steers a robot while robotics students Ethan Salibio and Kaitlyn De Loncker watch at Rolling Meadows High School on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Rolling Meadows, Ill. Biden, along with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona are in the Chicago area promoting apprenticeship and career-connected learning opportunities.
First lady Jill Biden steers a robot while students Ethan Salibio and Kaitlyn De Loncker watch at Rolling Meadows High School Monday, in Rolling Meadows, Ill. Biden, along with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona are in the Chicago area promoting apprenticeship and career-connected learning opportunities.
Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Searching for Common Ground: Student-Loan Forgiveness and the Cost of Higher Ed.
Who is responsible for the high cost of higher education? And will the student-loan forgiveness plan solve the rising cost?
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says More Students in Class of 2022 Seek Financial Aid for College
Financial aid applications may be an early sign of students regaining interest in higher education post-pandemic.
2 min read
Hand holding a graduate's cap turned upside down and full of money.
DigitalVision Vectors
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says New Graduates' ACT Scores Hit a 30-Year Low
College-placement test scores sank for the graduating class of 2022, even as more students retook the test.
4 min read
Arrows, with focus on downward turn.
panom73/iStock/Getty