More stories of kids who overcame the odds, part one

Hopefully everyone has had a chance to read our April cover story about high school seniors who overcame adversity to become successful students.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have room in our magazine to fit all of the stories we wanted to tell. But we can tell them here. After the jump, meet Yoshio Villareal.

At 14, Yoshio Villareal found himself in Oak Cliff, isolated and confused.

But he had a goal.

Villareal grew up in San Buenaventura, a small town in the Mexican state of Coahuila. And once he finished grade school there, he decided he wanted to get the rest of his education in Dallas, where he has family.

“I wanted to get a better education than what I could get in Mexico,” he says. “I wanted to learn English, because I think it will help me get a better job if I’m bilingual.”

So in August 2006, his parents drove him to his aunt’s house in Oak Cliff, where they left him.

“You feel like an outsider,” he says. “You’re used to one way of life, and overnight, you live in another place, and it’s a big change.”

He knew some English words, but the language was still a jumble to him. And he lived in a house with three families, including six other children.

His aunt helped as much as she could, but she had struggles of her own, so Villareal needed to support himself in Texas.

“I was really scared, and I didn’t know what to do,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends.”

But after he enrolled at Adamson High School, he joined the soccer team — which last month headed to the playoffs — and fell in with a social crowd. He got a job bussing tables at a trendy restaurant.

And he threw himself into school.

By the end of his freshman year, he was speaking English fluently.

“My teachers saw that I have potential,” he says. “So they really pushed me.”

He got into a little trouble when he was 15. He pleaded guilty to a shoplifting charge (although, he says, he was taking the blame for younger cousins and didn’t steal anything himself), and did 40 hours of community service.

Adamson counselor Daniel Cruz says Villareal got into some trouble because he was hanging around with the wrong crowd. But some of those friends ended up “either dead or in jail.”

“He decided to get his act together,” Cruz says.

Villareal has been accepted to the University of Texas at Dallas, and he wants to major in education so that he can teach his favorite subject, English.


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