Education Requires Community

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IDEA San Juan graduate Axel Ovalle

This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!

I grew up in a small town on the Texas-Mexico border called Pharr, Texas. My parents, who are originally from Mexico, did not attend college. In school, my father made it to middle school, while my mother did not graduate from high school.

Despite their education, they have managed to make a great life for me and my siblings. My father owns a trucking company and my older brothers work in the oil refining industry. They all make a good living and I used to think that I didn’t need college to make a good income. If they were doing it, why couldn’t I?

I know a lot of families with similar backgrounds who may think that a college education is expensive and unnecessary. However, a solid education can give you something invaluableoptions.

My parents have always encouraged me when it comes to my education. In fact, they even chose my school based on its ability to prepare students for college and beyond. One of the first things any student at IDEA Public Schools will notice is the sense of community. You don’t go through anything alone. Your peers understand better than anyone the challenge of navigating IDEA’s culture and curriculum, your teachers make themselves available even after hours to be sure you have everything you need to succeed, and your family is there supporting you through every milestone.

Some people may believe that education is an individual pursuit. However, education requires a sense of community. It requires the support of your classmates, school, campus, and surrounding community. IDEA believes that college is for all. Not just some individuals, but all individuals. From the moment you are welcomed into the family as a student, everything is done with the goal of preparing you to be successful in college and in life.

That support comes in handy when you are putting in the work. There is late-night studying, homework practice, AP classes and exams, sports and activities—and balancing it all can be tough. Luckily, we had our campus community to cheer us on and offer a hand any time we needed it.

As humans, we are the product of our environment. At IDEA, you know that you can make anything happen. The classes that have graduated before you have moved on to bright futures in great schools and you know that, soon enough, it will be your turn.

As a student, we visited college campuses across the country and it opened my eyes to the possibilities that lie far beyond the Rio Grande Valley. When you come from a small town, sometimes people want to follow the same path. It can be scary to venture out and break the mold. But this is where you need a community of supporters telling you to ignore the fear and go as far as you want.

This fall, I will be the first in my family to attend college. I will be attending Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. and majoring in chemistry. My ultimate goal is to earn my PhD. in pharmacy. It is important to me to be successful and my success is possible because of the many people in my life who made me believe that I could be more than I ever thought possible.

I am thankful for these opportunities and plan to return the favor by paying it forward and giving back to my own community someday.


Alex Ovalle is a 2019 graduate of IDEA San Juan. In the fall he will begin classes at Lafayette College.


[Click to TweetGraduate Axel Ovalle reflect on the educational path his parents set him on when they enrolled him in @IDEASchools San Juan #CharterGrads