Ruben Alonzo’s English learners in his Texas classroom were thriving. He believed in their potential the same way a teacher had once believed in him — a third-generation migrant worker who went on to MIT, Harvard, and Columbia University.

His students were two miles from the Mexican border in Rio Grande, at an independent charter school in the IDEA Public Schools network. Many were not proficient in English, but 98 percent passed their state algebra tests.

“That tells you that regardless of their English proficiency, in the areas of math and science, our English learner students can succeed,” Alonzo said.

Because his life’s passion was to help students with similar backgrounds as his own, Alonzo’s wife, Cynthia, a California native, challenged him to bring his vision to even more students, where historically schools have been failing them.

“We both asked ourselves, ‘Where we can make the greatest impact?’ The answer was Los Angeles, East L.A., and we said, ‘Let’s go!’ ”
Story by Esmeralda Fabian Romero
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