Juan Palacios

As a teenage male in El Salvador, Juan was told by the violent local gangs that he could join them or he could leave. Juan chose the latter and started his 30 day trek to the US. He walked day and night often going long periods of time without eating. Sometimes but not often, he was able to hitch a ride. Shortly after crossing into the United States, he was detained in a juvenile detention center until he was able to contact his Uncle who was able to navigate the long process of taking legal responsibility for Juan as a young refugee seeking asylum.

Juan enrolled at Spanaway Lake High School and quickly realized that going to traditional classes when you don’t speak the language was very discouraging. If he didn’t have a friend in a class who could translate for him, he quit going to the class. He felt like there was no point since he couldn’t understand what was being taught, keep up with the assignments or participate in the classes. After all he had gone through, he felt like he wanted to give up since unlike other teens, he was doing it all on his own without any parental support. Juan also needed to work full-time, which was very difficult while attending a traditional high school. Just when he was ready to quit working towards his diploma, a school counselor recommended that he try the Bethel Acceleration Academy where the hours would be flexible and he could more easily attend around his work responsibilities.

Instead of giving up, Juan enrolled at BAA. Juan credits BAA and God for helping him to have the self-confidence and self-discipline to become a high school graduate. He states that GCA Kristin Bulala helped him take the steps required to navigate the Washington State Assessment requirements and that from the very beginning, Coach Kevin Torres regularly called and texted him about coming in to the academy to get his work done. Additionally both Content Coach Torres and Coach Kevin Cummings spent one-on-one time with Juan helping him complete his classes whenever he was able to break away from his full time jobs. When asked how he’d describe BAA to a friend in need, Juan stated, “it’s the only way to go if you have to work full time.”

Juan also offers, “a huge thanks, to all of your staff, for supporting me throughout my whole school experience. I have learned a lot from you all, thank you all for your hard work, patience and time. I wouldn’t do it without any of you. I never thought that I was ever going to make it, but no matter what I never gave up!”

Juan knew that earning his diploma would open up many avenues of opportunity for employment as a licensed plumber as well as make his mother back in El Salvador very proud. “Now, it is my wish and hope to have my parents here to celebrate it with me, and God knows that would make me the happiest person on this earth.”

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