“I grew up in a single-parent home. It was my mom, my two siblings and I. My mom was both my mother and father growing up, so it was very difficult to see my mother handling everything on her own. I didn’t want to cause any strife so I just knew what I had to do.”

“My freshman and sophomore year I was focused on school and played basketball as a form of therapy. I started working my sophomore year and I had to decide between hooping or working. So, I decided to stop playing basketball because I knew I needed money and needed to help my family.”

“My experiences helped me understand the other students who were considered ‘bad.’ Their form of discipline was in school suspension which involved being put in a room with no cell phones, staring at the chalkboard, with work they needed to complete or they would get suspended. Like what is that going to do? That’s not going to help them.”

“They didn’t ask them what was going on at home. They just cared about their behavior. I know some students who couldn’t afford to do laundry or others who were in a toxic household. When you’re going through that, you can’t focus on school.”

“They’re acting like that for a reason. There’s a reason behind everything. So just putting them in a room to do work is not going to meet their needs. That’s going to make them not want to come to school. You feel like you have no support so you have no motivation because what’s the point?

“Junior and senior year was especially tough. I was going through things at home and dealing with a lot of my own personal issues that caused me to miss school. Teachers wouldn’t question why I’d miss so many weeks of school, not once did they ask me anything. All they would tell me was, ‘You’re behind.”

“Waukegan High School should re-evaluate the system they are using. Focus on the mental and emotional well-being of students to ensure they are on the right path to success.”

“After graduating, I came to Curt’s Café because I needed to find that support, direction and guidance. It feels so good to be working and plugged into resources to figure out how to get where I want to go.”

Aryana Franco
Curt’s Café student worker
Waukegan, Illinois