Meet a high schooler who is learning to speak English while working toward protecting his country, the United States of America … in his own words.

Meet an ambitious ESL (English as a Second Language) student in a big public high school … in his own words.


My name is Jefferson. My father decided to give me this name because he was a great fan of the New Jersey basketball team. Richard Jefferson was an incredible basketball player, and, for that reason, I have the name. I’m 17 years old, and I’m in 11th grade. I was born in the United States. But, when I was 5 years old, my mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer, so my parents decided to move to El Salvador to live for a few years of my life. With each year that passed, I lost my English. My friends stayed in the United States, and adapted to a new culture and a new language. Then I came back to the

United States in 2014, and I felt like it was a new world. I didn’t know the language. People looked at me like I was unknown.

December 13, 2014 was my first day at school, in 6th grade. I was afraid. I saw a different culture and language. My teacher was very strict. I told her I came from rural part from El Salvador, and my education was not good. I had a few problems understand­ing. ELA was hard for me … I knew she tried to help me, but, at the same time, she was hurting me. When she asked the whole class: “Do you know when you will graduate?” I was screaming “in 2017,” and she laughed. And, on the same day, she said, “I don’t think so.” All of my classmates laughed too. At that moment, I felt like I was nobody. But, in my mind, I asked myself: “Who are you? Who is she? Who are they?” I promised myself, “I will graduate in 2017.” …

I went to summer school, and, in graduated 8th grade in 2017. The first thing that came to my mind was to show my diploma to that 6th grade teacher. She didn’t care.

In school, I am reading the history of the United States. In each lesson, when I analyze all of the soldiers and politician­s who sacrificed for us to have freedom and liberty, my heart feels the passion for these 50 stars. This is my country.

I plan to go college to study political science and criminal justice. I want to be an FBI secret agent. I will protect people, citizens, when they are still sleeping. And I will be awake to protect and save this nation.

I feel that the United States is my home. It has a passionate history, and the people are united. ■

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