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Joel Luera's School Struggles Set Him Up For Success With No Regrets

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Joel Luera is congratulated by other graduates at W. W. Samuell Early College High School in Dallas.

Going to school in a tough neighborhood has its challenges, even for a high-achiever like Joel Luera. The high school debater is headed to college in the fall, but the road to graduation hasn’t been easy.

Joel Luera receives his high school diploma from W.W. Samuell High on June 1. A few weeks ago, he got a college degree – an associate's diploma from Eastfield College.

None of this would be happening if he hadn’t messed up in middle school, he says.

"In middle school, I decided not to do what I had to do," Joel says. "And, you know, I did poorly in school. ...  And that’s why I ended up going here.”

He chose to attend W. W. Samuell Early College High School – it’s a school within a school where kids earn college credit while going to high school. Getting accepted into schools like these is a competitive process: There are interviews, recommendations letters and a lottery.

Joel says he didn’t have the grades in middle school to get into a magnet high school like he wanted. But the early college program saw his potential.

“Where I’ve gotten is because of mistakes, but I don’t regret any of those mistakes because they’re part of who I am and I have to accept that,” he says.

Read the entire story about Joel — he's one of seven North Texas teens we've been following since 8th grade in our American Graduate series, Class of '17.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.