Andre presents himself as a very confident, put together young man. He is an avid reader and very well spoken. He has a great job in a management position and drives a nice car. In fact, you would never guess the struggles he has been through by his appearance.
When Andre was preparing to start middle school, his mother decided to move the family from Brooklyn, New York to Sarasota, Florida in hopes of finding better opportunities for herself and her children. His mother, who he refers to as his hero, single handedly raised Andre alongside his 4 other siblings. He describes her as a strong woman who demonstrates tough love.
Andre spoke about what it was like to be part of a family who had difficulty fitting in and often struggled to make ends meet. In fact, his family often worried about the possibility of facing homelessness. He went to middle school in a predominantly white neighborhood, and so he adapted as an attempt to fit in. Andre was one of 3 African American students at his school. When he entered a more racially diverse high school, he once again found himself struggling to fit in. Some black students accused him of “acting too white” and some of his white peers did not fully accept him because he was black. Perhaps this is part of the reason Andre is so open and accepting of others.
When Andre was in high school, he decided to get a job to help pay the bills. Once he started making some money, it was tempting to make some more. He stopped going to school unless it was to take a test. Andre went through a rebellious time and decided to move out of the house so, “he could do whatever he wanted to.” He realized very quickly that his mother was smarter and tougher than he had ever imagined. Working full time and providing for himself was incredibly difficult. He remembers thinking to himself, “I’m hungry and this is hard.” Within a year he had returned home with a thankful attitude and newfound respect for his mother.
Frank Cruz, a Graduate Candidate Advocate, reached out to Andre’s mother with an offer for him to earn his high school diploma at Sarasota Acceleration Academy free of cost. According to Andre, “I knew I had to do it for myself and my family. I didn’t want to be seen as just another high school drop out.”
Today Andre is a high school graduate and has great aspirations for the future. He plans to attend college and pursue a business degree. His ultimate dream is to own a chain of restaurants. He also plans on using his success story and his voice in the community to continue tackling issues surrounding racial injustice.
If Andre had one piece of advice for a potential GC who was contemplating whether to sign up for SAA he would say, “You have to want something better for you.” Thinking about the big picture and his ultimate goals, along with the support from his family, helped him to keep working toward earning his high school diploma when it got difficult.