When Franklin Velasquez first showed up at Oakland International High School, he was seventeen, and had been out of school for a full year. He'd crossed into the US by himself, fleeing persecution in Guatemala, and spent a year working in day labor zones, doing gardening, construction, moving, and other irregular odd-jobs, while living with a distant relative. After a year of this, he was desperate to get back to school to continue his studies so he showed up at the front door late one August evening. "Can I come to school here?" he asked.
Though he wanted an ed
ucation, school wasn't always easy for Franklin. In spite of how smart and determined he was, Franklin was working full time during 10th and 11th grades, and living alone. He was struggling to both support himself and keep up in school. Plus, he had no papers, and was fighting an immigration case with the help of his attorneys at OIHS partner agency, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant.
"He was in office more than once last year talking about dropping out," recalls OIHS School Counselor, Elizabeth Paniagua. "But he's incredibly determined and perseverant. Now he is getting good grades, has applied to 4 year colleges, and is taking a community college class during the spring semester."
Franklin is now a leader in his class, a strong English speaker, and frequently helps other students. "I appreciate how kind he is and how he always comes into class and greets me, no matter how stressed out he is," says 12th Grade Career Readiness teacher, Ms. Liza. "He really engages in conversation with classmates."
"I have many dreams," says Franklin, "But one day I would like to become an engineer." In the short term his goal is college. While he wants to attend a four year school, he'll likely start at a two year college for financial reasons. "But for sure I want to transfer to a University," he says.
Franklin won his asylum case last year and is now in the process for applying for immigration status for his mother. "I'm so sad that she's not going to be at my graduation this spring," he shared. He worries about who is going to clap for him.
Rest assured that we will all, loudly and with many tears and shouts, be clapping for Franklin Velasquez when he walks across that stage this June.