Rafael E. remembers his digital media class when the teacher had them fly drones to get compelling aerial shots. Fast forward three and a half years and Rafael is flying reconnaissance drones for the U.S. Army.

Enlisting right after graduation, he was sent to boot camp three days later and has been sent overseas to Korea and Europe. Today he has earned the rank of Sergeant and plans to remain in the military thanks to his rapid success and promotions in the Army.

Rafael admits that his life would be on a different trajectory if he had not come to our school. Beginning in middle school and throughout high school, he had to work several jobs to help support his family – his single mother and eight siblings. Enrolling here gave him the flexibility and help to balance work and school.

“I want to further my college education and perhaps change occupations in the Army to be a manned pilot for helicopters,” he said. “I feel like my drone background helps pave the way for that goal.”

Plus, he learned skills he still uses today – like digital media and IT courses that helped translate to his job in aviation – and learning how to deal with real life situations. He fondly remembers his dedicated teachers who showed genuine care and support to their students. “My teachers inspired me to be like them. To show patience and respect to anybody,” he said. “I learned about finances too, so I was able to build up my credit and recently purchased my first car.”

Rafael is so grateful to his mother, who sacrificed everything for her all her kids so they could have a successful future. “I tell young people to respect your parents and be grateful for what you have and your family,” he said. “Not everyone grows up in safe and sound environments, but still manage to overcome life’s curveballs. You can change your future to what you want. Challenge yourself, and work hard for yourself. The only one stopping you…is you.”

Written By:
Ann Abajian