By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
LINDSAY – Students from John J. Cairns alternative education high school walked out of the Lindsay gym with their diploma in hand and their heads held high. After four years of intensive study and discipline they are ready to move on to college, trades or whatever dreams they choose to pursue. But that is not without understanding the fact they will work harder than their counterparts to get there. To drive that point home John J. Cairns welcomed guest speaker Javier Guzman.
Guzman understands what it means to struggle and come out on the other side. Working as the regional director of Big Picture Learning, an organization designed to make education more student focused, Guzman shared his story about his life of struggle.
Guzman told the J.J. Cairns class of 2018 and full gymnasium of family and friends about the chip on his shoulder when he was young. He was born in the Dominican Republic, a small country bordering Haiti and north of Puerto Rico. Already impoverished things got worse when Guzman’s father was killed by a lightning strike. Before long his family moved to southern California near Los Angeles where they had the support of family. But things were not much better in the states than they were in the “DR.”
He struggled to learn English as a second language and became alienated from his classmates. Making matters worse, he was often bullied. At his still impoverished home Guzman recalled stuffing cotton into his ears so cockroaches wouldn’t climb inside while he slept. Guzman shared a bed with his brother, he assured the crowd it was not because he loved his brother that much, it was because they only had one bed to share. As he got older he says he carried around a massive chip on his shoulder and was angry with the world. Soon his anger turned into productivity and learned to focus his frustration into something that would make him better. Guzman said to the class that their struggles, like his, will be the reason they succeed moving forward.
“Because of who you are, because of where you come from, you’re going to have to work harder…but because of where you’re from, you know struggle. A deeper sense of struggle that other people don’t understand,” Guzman said.
Some of the students are already learning from their struggles and moving on to the next level of their education. Principal Dennis Doane relayed several students are already enrolled at Porterville College and College of the Sequoias. And several students has the honor to address their class. Student speakers, Alyssa O’Neal, Andrew Cruz and Vanessa Broerman conveyed how proud they were of themselves and those who had supported them through all four years of high school; but it was the final student speaker Agustin Gutierrez who gave thanks to those who never gave him a chance.
“I want to give thanks to all the people who put me down and said I couldn’t…because without you I wouldn’t have shown you that I can,” Gutierrez said.