Beating the odds at graduation

By Carla Gonzalez

Being foreign to a language and expected to immediately meet the standards of native speakers is a feat that is often overlooked by those who do not have to face it. It is difficult to learn with such little assistance. The struggle of handling life, learning a different language and graduating high school is above all, inspiring. David Paredes has been able to do all of these things and overcome adversity.

David Paredes comes from San Martin, Perú. Paredes arrived just in time to complete his senior year here at Tigard. In his home country, school only runs up to 11th grade. When he came here, his expectations were to start college not continue high school, but things didn’t go as planned.

Paredes was put in one more year of school at Tigard, and he was determined to learn English and finish his years of high school. “Cuando llegue y no podía comunicarme con nadie lo primero que quise hacer es aprender a comunicarme porque me gusta dar mis ideas, mis opiniones, lo que pienso, me gusta tener una,” Paredes said. “When I got here I couldn’t communicate with anyone, the first thing I wanted to do was learn how to communicate because I like to give my ideas, my opinions, what I think.” Paredes has done really well in school. Back in Peru it was never very hard to keep up his A’s. He always excelled in every subject and was never shy to speak in front of class. After coming to the U.S., he experienced a sudden change, but it didn’t hold him back.

The thought of giving up on his high school diploma because of the language barrier was not an option. Senioritis and loss of motivation throughout a student’s senior year is very common, but Paredes knew he couldn’t get carried away. Like all the other seniors, he had plenty of distractions. It is such an accomplishment when the average high school student graduates, but Paredes had a major obstacle–a language barrier to add to the list of things that make school hard.

Paredes had a lot of moments of frustration “Es difícil porque también ya siendo mayor ya diecisiete años ya tu quieres expresarte o quieres hablar con personas tener amigos y llegas y no sabes, no puedes aprender, no puedes entender a nadie,” Paredes explained. “It’s hard because already being older, 17 years of age, you want to express yourself, you want to talk to people and have friends. But you get here and you don’t know, you can’t learn, you can’t understand anyone.”

“Siempre me decían que me iba a tomar dos años o minimo un ano y medio en graduarme y no, lo hice un año,” Paredes said. “They always told me that it would take me two more years to graduate, at least one and a half, but no, I made it it in one,” he said.

So how was Paredes so self driven? “Podría decir que una de mis motivaciones es estar en este país porque tú sabes no entender a nadie no saber el idioma y decir que puedes venir por un año a estudiar gratis pues es una gran ventaja y aparte ya estando aquí tome el ano y de pronto me dicen que hay posibilidad de tomar el oregon promise para los dos años de escuela gratis,”

“I would say that one of my motivations is just being in this country, because you know not being able to understand anyone, not knowing the language and say that you can come here one year is a huge advantage, being here I took the year and then they tell me there’s a possibility that I can do the Oregon Promise for two free years of college, and that was more than enough motivation.”

He sees himself going to college at least two years. He wants to improve himself and pursue a career in electrical engineering.

Above overcoming a language barrier, Paredes broke the stereotype and defied statistics. It is a misconception that Hispanic students don’t try at school and become high school dropouts. But Paredes worked really hard, and graduated. Unfortunately, the percentage of students of color who graduate is in fact lower. Black and Hispanic/Latino students are still graduating 10 and six percentage points behind the national average, respectively. But Paredes is beating this statistic one class at a time.

As advice to those who are struggling he said, “Si piensan en ese momento de que ahora van a salir con sus amigos del entorno o que van a ser populares o algo asi, pues no logran nada porque después terminan trabajando con el mínimo si llegan a agarrar un trabajo, y si no? Y si quieren algo mejor y no quedarse solo con lo básico o que de vez en cuando no tengan nada que comer pues tienen que echarle ganas a sus estudios trabajar y si no, si son de esas personas que como que toman más tiempo para aprender algo pues les diría, “tomate tu tiempo,” The last thing he wishes students would do is drop out. People should take advantage of their opportunity to be successful. If it takes a little longer than it should, it’s okay to take your time.

On June 10, David Paredes walked across the Tigard High stage to get his diploma, in time to start his life ahead of him, and say “Si se pudo.”