MCALLEN, Texas — As special education student AJ Rojas walks the stage with the founding class of IDEA McAllen, he reflects upon his difficult journey. As a child he failed the 1st and 2nd Grades. He was tested and found to be severely dyslexic.
“I was labeled a 504 student, sat in the back of a class played with Legos and blocks and just wasn’t mentally challenged.“ Says AJ.
His parents were confused on how to help him academically.
Kasey Kid, AJ’s mother, “Of course in 2nd and 3rd grade he would throw his homework, he would cry. I even told him, I can’t, I can’t anymore, like what do we do.“
AJ’s parents decided to enroll him and his younger sister into IDEA McAllen. “I came to IDEA at 6th grade. I knew how to add but it wasn’t all there. My ABC’s I had a really hard time saying them and even reading for me was very, very hard. I was at a pre-k level.“
Rojas recalls the life changing meeting with Principal Joan Alvarez and being told he would go to college. A promise given to all IDEA students and parents.
“I remember giggling to myself. I don’t think I’m going to college. He doesn’t know how far behind I am.“
Rojas credits his teacher, Mrs. Davila, with giving him the attention needed in the classroom.
“She would take me out of lunch, she would take me out of P.E., out of AR, out of hot spot, so that I could be in a class, so she could review over and over.“
Since the 6th grade Rojas has passed every one of his state exams and will now head to college.
“After I had applied at the seven universities, I had gotten accepted to all seven universities and so that for me was like a big wow.“
Principal Joan Alvarez calls AJ a role model. His success is a reflection on the values of IDEA schools. “It’s inspiring and a reminder that when we make a promise of 100 percent to college, that includes every student. No matter if they are special ed, migrant, or at risk.“
AJ plans to share his story in hopes of inspiring students like him. “It’s going to be hard, but you will get there. No stopping. Just say yes and figure it out later.“