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At age 17, John Castillo uprooted his life in El Salvador to follow his dream of obtaining higher education.

“I had a dream to come to the U.S. to study in college in another language and to learn in a new culture,” he said. His family was already established in Washington, DC, and so in 2000 he moved to the capital.

He enrolled at the Carlos Rosario School in 2002. For a time period he had to pause he studies to work at a hotel as a housekeeper. He worked from 12:00am to 6:00am for the next five years, until he realized he wanted more.

“One day I said what am I doing here? I don’t want to do this all the time: working overtime, not getting a lot of money, not understanding people when they speak to me,” John explained.

So he quit his job and enrolled once again as a Carlos Rosario student in 2006. He took ESL classes from level 3 to level 7, finished his GED in three months, and took two computer classes.

Midway through his studies, John started working at another hotel, earning three times as much as before. He says that the lessons learned at the Carlos Rosario School helped him get a better position: “Before I didn’t know how to fill out an application; I didn’t know how to answer during interviews. It made my life easier; I didn’t have to look for somebody to fill out my application.”

John now works at a restaurant, where he gets flexible hours to study and a living wage to take care of his newborn baby.

He finished his Associate of Arts in December 2013 and wants to become a Political Science major at the University of the District of Columbia.

“Without Carlos Rosario School’s help I don’t think I could be in UDC,” he says. “What I learned here has taken me to another level and helped me to learn more and more every day.”

In the future, John wants to use his knowledge to help the Latino community in DC. As an immigrant himself, he understands how difficult it can be to navigate a new culture and government system. That is why he wants to use his Spanish language skills and his future knowledge in political science to make a difference in the community.