Despite the Odds, Student Succeeds at Austin Can!
Joshua was born and raised in New Orleans. Shortly after his father died, Hurricane Katrina further devastated the family. Joshua fled from his housing project as the water rose, fearing the worst because he cannot swim. He sought refuge in his sister’s third-floor apartment; his mother went to the Superdome. As was the case with many, evacuation from New Orleans split his family. Joshua and two sisters landed in Austin and it was 4 months before he knew the whereabouts of his mother. For 5 months he lived at the Austin Convention Center. During this time, he attended two different high schools. The school bus did not pick up at the convention center and without transportation, it was difficult for him to attend school across town, so he was expelled from both schools for lack of attendance. The second expulsion came after he went back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in New Orleans despite a principal’s warning not to miss any more classes. “I just wanted to see my family. After we were split up, it was the first chance to all be together,” explained Joshua. The school tried to refer him to a GED program. “I’d come too close to graduating to get a GED. I wanted my diploma,” Joshua insisted. Luckily Joshua spotted an Austin Can! Academy billboard. He decided to check out the school and started attending last April. “I feel comfortable here. I can focus on my education.” Josh attributes his success at the academy to the small class sizes and the support from teachers. “I feel inspired to learn. Teachers work with you and you get that extra attention that you do not get at a big high school,” he added. Life in Austin has improved for Joshua. He and his girlfriend share an apartment and they have a new son. Motivated by fatherhood, Joshua has high hopes for his future. He’ll be graduating in January and looks forward to enrolling in Austin Community College’s nursing program to become a registered nurse. “I always took care of my dad when he was sick. I like to help people,” he said. When asked about Joshua, principal Charles Long noted, “Joshua is what Austin Can! is all about. He’s a kid who has had to overcome many obstacles, and we helped him succeed. He is a great example for others.”