In high school, Cesar “never did a whole lot more than [he] had to.” He made Cs, and though his mother wanted him to attend college, he wasn't motivated to change his behavior or improve his grades. “I was always on the edge,” he says.
But one day he went too far. During his junior year, Cesar was expelled. He left school and got a job in construction. It was definitely a wake-up call. “I was seeing old men working [the same job] and I said, ‘No way, I can't be doing this for a long time.’”
Cesar set a goal: Graduate high school and go to college. He enrolled in an alternative high school that better suited his learning style. He liked that his new school gave students more individual responsibility and personal freedom. “You could take a class for two hours or the whole day if you wanted to. That helped me get back on track.”
Cesar graduated, but still faced two major obstacles. He had never taken a college admission test, and he wasn’t sure how to pay for college without getting into debt. To solve the problem, he decided to attend a local community college where tuition was lower and an admission test was not required.
He applied for financial aid and scholarships, but had to pay for the first two semesters on his own. Eventually, he won an academic scholarship and “I’ve had a scholarship ever since,” he says. “It covers all of my tuition.” There’s even money for books.
After earning his associate degree in business, Cesar transferred to a four-year public university in his home state. He divides his time between running his construction business and attending class. He dreams of one day owning a business that enables him to “produce enough income to relax and not have to worry as much.”
His advice to students in his shoes: “You've got to think about yourself 10 years from now and say, ‘How am I going to get there?’ Of course, education is essential.”