Yerson Villalobos is a sixteen-year old freshman just starting at McMahon, who has dealt with a lot, but tries to see the positive in difficult situations. Three months in at a completely different school, Villalobos is beginning to see the difference from his life before to his life now.
Villalobos started first grade at the age of seven at a public school in Honduras until he was twelve years old. Later, he got the opportunity to go to an educational institution called El Sembrador with a full scholarship by taking a test that he passed. At El Sembrador students are committed to the integral development. They provide growth opportunities that are shaping new students with high spiritual and moral values. The only downfall was that he would have to live on campus at this school since it was almost an hour away from his home and he was only given the chance to leave once a month.
He had been studying in El Sembrador for four years before he came to the U.S. It was hard on both him and his family because he wasn’t able to see them everyday. He and eight other boys slept on mattresses with stacked up wood in one room. The room was big enough for all of them to sleep on one side and do homework on the other. They were woken up at five in the morning everyday by a bell signifying that they had to get ready for school. At two in the afternoon, when school ended, the bell rang again reminding them to go to work.
“Once the bell rang at two, that meant we all had to get in a straight line together and walk to work. If you were late you’d get in trouble,” Villalobos says. “We worked two hours a day without getting paid and we all had different jobs.”
The school had its own rules and was very strict, meaning the students had limited chances to get penalized or they’d be taken out of the school. They were punished by cutting down trees or veneering items every Saturday if they were found not respecting the school rules. Although the school was strict and competitive, Villalobos explained that it wasn’t always like that. “Once in a while, all the students would get together and compete in any game you could ever imagine which was always a lot of fun. We did plays and played in our school band, too.”
Villalobos couldn’t keep in contact with his family throughout the week since one of the rules was to not have any technology devices with you. He was given a phone on Friday afternoons and had to return it on Sunday afternoons before classes started on Monday. “We were given an old fashioned phone during the weekends because we weren’t allowed to have new phones.” Villalobos says, “The first thing I would do when I had it was call my family immediately because I would miss them so much during the week.”
During the time Villalobos was in El Sembrador, his father got very ill. Villalobos wasn’t able to leave school without his mother picking him up. She couldn’t take him out since she was far, so she had to call the school to let the administrators know that Villalobos needed to be dismissed. That’s when his mother decided that they would move to the U.S for a better life of their own. Villalobos then dropped out of school and packed his bags to start his new journey.
“When my mother first told me that we had to go to the U.S., I wasn’t very excited. It wasn’t that I was scared, I just didn’t want to leave the environment I was in,” Villalobos explains. “After thinking about it and seeing the positives, I thought about what it would be like to live in a totally different country and finally reunite with my family again.”
Villalobos has very few family in U.S. including his older brother who is a McMahon alumni, who he hadn’t seen for years. The process of Villalobos and his mother coming to the U.S. as immigrants was overwhelming, but they knew that it would be worth it.
After finally getting comfortable at a new school, Villalobos says. “This school is bit more relaxed and simple but I imagine as you go into a higher grade, it will start to get more difficult. Since I started the school year late, I want to focus on sports next year as well as maintaining my grades.” Villalobos had mentioned that he is very athletic and likes just about any sport. His favorites including soccer, volleyball, and basketball. He is hoping to make the soccer team next year and follow in his older brothers’ footsteps.
Villalobos’ future is very important to him, as well as his family and making them proud. “In the future I plan on graduating, getting into a good college, and becoming an engineer. I know by studying and working hard I will be able to make that happen.”