For Cedar Falls Holmes Junior High School, 9th grader, Adrian Diaz, the fields of the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex are a long way from the life Adrian once lived in his native Honduras and later on some mean streets of urban Florida.
Not long ago, Adrian found himself surrounded by a world of drugs, violence, and gang, feeling trapped and helpless.
Adrian recalls, "I was really depressed. I didn't know what the future held for me. I was just going with the flow. Waking up everyday; not knowing what to do. Not enjoying life. Just doing whatever I wanted to do."
Relatives here helped bring Adrian's family to Cedar Falls. But, the young man came here with a pretty big chip on his shoulder, not to mention grades of ‘F' on his report card.
"When I got here, I started with really bad grades. I didn't care," he says.
That's why the staff at Holmes, including Principal Dave Welter, and teachers Corey Peters and Dan Bower, convinced Adrian to get involved in the ECHOES After School Program at Holmes. ECHOES is an acronym: Every Child Has the Opportunity to Excel and Succeed. It's a program designed to help any student willing to give ECHOES a chance:
Mr. Peters says of Adrian, "He started to realize he could it. It took him longer, and he'd go into ECHOES and, with the tutors staff there. They would help him, Other kids in the school would help him. But, he wanted to be helped and he started to put forth the effort."
Some 200 Holmes students, like these, take part in the ECHOES After school program every week. Adrian says his teachers, like Dan Bower, pushed him to do even better
"He got on me, and told me to go to ECHOES. ECHOES is an after school program, where you can get your work done. That really helped a lot. I started with an ‘F.' Now, I have all ‘A's fir the first time a long time." That really helped out a lot. They really helped me get up there. All A's and get my work in."
Dan Bower says, "The key with him was the connections he was able to make here at school. He had that desire all along, and, all we were able to do is help bring it out and give him a way, a vehicle, so he could achieve that desire. That goal, ultimately, is to go on to college."
Until he got involved in the ECHOES program, Adrian says he didn't see college as even a remote possibility in his life:
"Before, I didn't really care about college. Never thought about it once" Adrian added.
Only a 9th grader, Adrian made the CF Boys Varsity soccer team, and will receive a statewide honor this week, as the Iowa After school Alliance honors him as an outstanding After school Student.
Dan Bower and Corey Peters will also be honored as Champions for Iowa's After school programs. They say Adrian has created some great possibilities for the future.
Corey Peters predicts, "He's got a very bright future, as long as he keeps his grades up and stays out of trouble. He's got a bright future."
Adrian, also credits FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, in his amazing turnaround.
"When I came here, I started doing what God has in store for me and what they think I can be, and it just helped a lot. I'm really excited about going to college, and we'll see what God wants, what he wants me to be, or what he puts in my heart to be in the future. "
He says, "I'm really excited about going to college, and we'll see what God wants me to be, or what he puts in my heart to be in the future. "
And Adrian is also quite grateful. "Very thankful. I feel very blessed for it. Thankful to everyone who's helped me a lot. Just very thankful."
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