By Nanci Pass and Damon James
Principals, Rose Elementary School and Thomas Russell Middle School
Milpitas Unified School District held its Every Student Succeeding Breakfast on May 12.
Officially, each elementary school nominates one student while middle schools nominate two students, the high school nominates four students, Cal Hills nominates one student, and Adult Ed nominates one student. Every school uses a different nomination criteria; it is open to any student who has shown remarkable growth and perseverance despite challenges and obstacles in their lives.
The event was created several years ago by the Milpitas Management Association and really embodies and represents the spirit of perseverance and the District’s beliefs of every student being valued, challenged, and successful. The Every Student Succeeding program honors students who exceed our expectations and the adults who support them along the way. They face life’s challenges head on and this recognition is an opportunity to highlight the young men and women who have overcome great obstacles to succeed. Their stories are remarkable and their futures are bright.
Damon James, Principal of Thomas Russell Middle School, shared the following firsthand account of his student who Nanci Pass, Principal of Rose Elementary School, said was inspirational to hear about:
Gregory Peck said, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do!” Victor is one tough young man. Every student has a unique story that helps to shape that individual’s character. For Victor, his life changed dramatically in the fourth grade. For that was they year, that his father was deported. Sometimes we all make mistakes, and unfortunately Victor’s father one that caused him to be separated from his family. The following year in fifth grade, Victor, his 8 siblings, and his mother were evicted from their apartment in East Palo Alto due to some questionable actions of his older brothers. Emotionally, he was distressed about seeing his father leave, and some of his sibling were demonstrating some out of control behavior at home.
Fortunately, his mother sought the members of her church for support, and she was able to place the children in varied homes temporarily. Victor was placed with teacher Catherine Petersen, who Victor refers to as his guardian for about one year. Shortly afterward, Victor’s aunt was able to raise the funds to have Victor’s father return. And from there, Victor and his entire family were reunited to a dwelling in Stockton. But, his older siblings continued to be an issue, affecting the entire home, so Victor’s parents placed them in group homes. Victor’s first year back with his family was OK. Victor maintained somewhat average grades, but the following year, Victor failed every class except for physical education.
Victor had the vision to know that in his current situation he would not succeed, so he asked his parents if he could return to his guardian’s home in Union City. They agreed, and because Victor’s guardian is also known as Milpitas Teacher, Ms. Petersen, Victor was able to enroll in Thomas Russell Middle School in August of 2016. Initially, school was difficult. Victor spent a lot of time trying to learn the material that he did not learn the previous year and manage a completely different style of learning at Russell. But by going straight home each day and working with his guardian until 10 or 11 p.m. each night until about February, Victor improved tremendously.
His current GPA is 3.83 and his last grading report reflected all As. What drives Victor is getting into a good high school, and he knows that performing well now will pay off later. Victor’s hopes include being a good person, getting good job, and staying out of trouble. Victor’s track coach, Mr. Dutra, said that Victor has a great attitude and always picks up his teammates. Victor we are so happy that you chose to attend Thomas Russell Middle School. Your success is a testament to your drive and motivation, and we are proud of you. Victor’s story is not known by many students or adults at Russell. He wants no special attention and nor recognition. He believes everyone should make decisions that will help them for their future. Yet again, another Russell student with wisdom beyond his years. Victor this is precisely why we think you are amazing. ¡Víctor, tú eres increíble!