Beating the Odds and Inspiring Others
By Phil Kauffman
On November 18, 2014, Board members Christopher S. Barclay and Shirley Brandman (now retired) had the privilege of attending the Children’s Defense Fund “Beat the Odds” awards program. At the event, two students of Montgomery County Public Schools were among those recognized for their high academic achievement in the face of significant obstacles and difficulties.
Monica Chica, a senior at Springbrook High School, came to the United States from El Salvador in 2012. Monica struggled to fit in at school and felt lonely, a feeling that was heightened when her mother had to return to El Salvador due to an illness. The varsity basketball coach took notice of Monica, who was 6’ 3” and athletic but had never played organized basketball. She attended a summer league and made the varsity team, creating a connection with other students and coaches who supported her success on and off the court. In just two years, Monica has mastered English and enrolled in International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. She has a 4.0 grade point average and uses her experiences to help tutor and mentor other English language learners.
Hally Moreno, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School, was significantly impacted by domestic violence in her home and feared for her mother’s safety. The situation followed her into the school, where she performed poorly and was even held back a year in elementary school. But inspired by her mother and motivated by her teachers, Hally has turned things around. She excelling in her classes, including IB, AP, and honors courses, and has a 3.9 grade point average. She is also tutoring elementary school students through the George B. Thomas Learning Academy and plays tennis and the violin. She hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania and make a better life for her, her mother and those around her.
The educational journeys of Monica and Hally are a lesson in perseverance and demonstrate the power of what is possible when students are engaged and inspired. Kudos also go to staff who reach out to these students and demonstrate a strong commitment to them and a belief in their potential. The moving videos shown at the Beat the Odds event can be seen on the Children’s Defense Fund website. Please take a few minutes to learn more about these amazing young women, who are wonderful representatives of the many outstanding students we have in our schools.