American Graduate Day is Saturday, October 3 and in the lead-up to the national PBS television event, KERA is profiling a few North Texas "champions" of education.
Jessica Soto is pre-college advisor with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth. Josh Hamilton is an AVID and debate teacher at Saginaw High School. Alejandro Pérez, Jr. is a life coach and teaching artist for Big Thought’s Creative Solutions program in Dallas.
Jessica Soto, pre-college advisor with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth
Jessica Soto, who says her parents "didn't even finish elementary school," discovered the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth when she was in high school. The pre-college advisor she met there motivated her to go to college and ultimately to start doing the job herself.
"A lot of people care and a lot of people are there to help you out," she says. "You just need to make sure that you ask."
Josh Hamilton, AVID and debate teacher at Saginaw High School
Josh Hamilton grew up poor in a single-parent household, and says teachers and coaches became "de facto parents" for him. He knows how important it is to support kids who might need a little extra inspiration in -- and out -- of school.
"I'm going to give you life advice whether you ask for it or not," he says. "If I see you messing up, I'm going to be the first person to tell you about it."
Hamilton was teaching at Denton's Guyer High School when this profile was produced. He now teaches at Saginaw High School.
Alejandro Pérez, Jr., life coach and teaching artist for Big Thought’s Creative Solutions
Alejandro Pérez, Jr. believes the creative process can unlock the potential of young people who've been in trouble in the past. He spends several weeks every summer coaching students for Big Thought's Creative Solutions.
"So many of these children have been labeled as 'at risk,'" he says. But by dealing with their experiences through art, the kids find that "they're not at risk of being anything other than successful."