Student Stories



The only thing Mariano could depend on in life was his mother’s love. His mom and step-dad immigrated to the United States when he was one. What appeared to some as a loving home was an abusive one. Mariano’s step-dad tortured his wife psychologically and took out his anger on Mariano, beating him up and playing head games regularly.
He had his head stuck in a book all the time in elementary school. It was his way of escaping reality. Mariano was an AB honor roll student and placed a high priority on being in the right social circle. As if his step-dad’s abuse wasn’t enough, kids started picking on him in fifth grade for being weird. He felt so dejected.

Mariano was still a bookworm in middle school, but his grades dropped. This was one more reason for his step-dad to mistreat him. “He kept me secluded at home. I couldn’t go to friends’ houses or play with other kids. Mom couldn’t help me because she was afraid of him too,” Mariano explained. Finally, she got up the courage to divorce him. Just as things were looking up, Mariano’s world collapsed. His mom was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors gave her six months, but she wouldn’t accept that prognosis.

As high school began, Mariano still didn’t take school seriously, but he got a job to help his mom pay the bills. His grandma came from Mexico to help his mom get through chemotherapy and surgery. Mariano’s mom returned to work after the surgery, which meant he rarely saw her. All this turmoil took its toll on Mariano and he had to repeat freshman year. He had taken so much time off during his mom’s illness that he ended up in truancy court. The judge had no sympathy for him. He fined Mariano and sentenced him to community service.

He started to take school seriously when his mom told him he wouldn’t be anything in life if he didn’t get an education. Things were looking up for his mom, but she needed one last surgery before she would be out of the woods. But, things went terribly wrong during the operation. The doctor accidentally cut her intestine and she was dead two weeks later. Mariano said proudly, “Mom always had faith. She said if God decided to take her it would be okay.”
Mariano took refuge living in Mexico with his grandma, but after six months returned to the States to preserve his citizenship status. He lived with his aunt who was financially unstable. Mariano tried to get back to school. Dallas Can Academy was his only option mid-term. At first he was uneasy, but he soon realized everyone was there to learn and graduate. With help from the teachers, it wasn’t long before Mariano had straight As again and made up for lost time. When he graduates, Mariano wants to go to UT Austin and maybe become an elementary reading teacher. “I’d like to encourage kids to enjoy reading and if they need it as an escape, well that’s all right too,” he said.


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