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February 06, 2020

Juan’s Story: You Never Gave Up on Me

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Each D2 Center student brings a unique set of circumstances that have led to their disengagement from school. There are some commonalities across their situations, but on a one-on-one basis, it’s the D2 Center Youth Academic Navigator (YAN’s) job to help the student sort out their own individual barriers and assist with strategies to overcome those barriers. Who are our students and what obstacles have they overcome to succeed? Over the next few months on the blog, we’ll be sharing student stories; here is Juan’s story.

Juan’s Story: You Never Gave Up on Me

After receiving a crushing diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his senior year, Juan finished two credits short of graduating due to medical absences during his fight against the disease.

This didn’t discourage Youth Academic Navigator Hansel Gonzalez, who considered Juan a high priority reengagement because he was so close to graduating. For months Hansel called, texted and made home visits but failed to make contact or get a response from Juan. Hansel persisted, though, and reached out again three months later, and Juan’s mother gave Hansel Juan’s mobile number. More calls and texts, however, were not answered.

A month later, Hansel finally received a call back from Juan telling him he wanted to finish school. Hansel arranged for Juan to come to the D2 Center and work on math packets through the OPS Accelere Program. Juan found the quiet atmosphere at the D2 Center and the math teacher’s help conducive to progress, even discussing college enrollment one time with a D2 Center Career Navigator.

To Hansel’s disappointment, Juan disappeared without earning a credit. More efforts at contact ensued. A few months later Juan reached out to Hansel and asked about the D2 Center’s tutoring schedule, but he failed to show up and failed contacts continued.

Six months later, out of the blue, Hansel received a call from Juan. He explained he’d been dealing with “personal family problems,” and wanted to meet again to talk about finishing school. Juan decided to attend the OPS Accelere Program and finish his two credits. He arranged with his boss at work to take several weeks off to focus on graduating. Hansel guided Juan through enrollment at Accelere, and Juan started his first math credit a few weeks later.

When Hansel visited Juan at Accelere to check on his progress, he saw the importance of the persistence and trust he had built with him. Juan finally opened up about the obstacles he had been facing—working full time to support his family, paying off medical bills, picking up his younger brothers at elementary school daily and watching them until his single mother got off work, medical check-ups to make sure the cancer hadn’t come back…

A few weeks later Hansel was there on the day Juan finished his last credit at Accelere. Hansel was reflecting in the hallway about the hardships that Juan had endured for so long at such a young age and Juan’s revelation to Hansel a few weeks earlier. When Juan stepped out of the classroom and Hansel congratulated him, Juan said, “You never gave up on me.”

 – Juan’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. –

Posted in: General, Student Stories

About Carolyn

Carolyn Miller is one of the directors of the D2 Center. She is a graduate of Omaha Northwest High School and the University of Iowa. Carolyn has been with the D2 Center since 2010.

View all posts by Carolyn