SIFE graduates

Class of 2021: SIFE Students Graduate “Against Great Odds”
Posted on 05/25/2021
MNPS SIFE Students and Teachers

Note: The group photo on the MNPS homepage for this story was taken in 2018.

A small group of new MNPS graduates took a long, difficult road before crossing the commencement stage to pick up their hard-won diplomas.

After arriving in the United States with little or no knowledge of the English language and gaps in their education, they adapted to American culture and schools and worked to achieve their goals with the support of MNPS and a program called Students with Interrupted Formal Education, or SIFE.  

The students often came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors, have lived with a guardian, and worked jobs continuously throughout their schooling to contribute to their households, said Eva Gaskin, a SIFE teacher at Hunters Lane High School. The students typically had missed two or more years of formal education in their home country but graduated from high school in just three years after taking summer and after-school classes.

“These students have achieved against great odds,” Gaskin said.

“Congratulations to our graduating students from the SIFE program! Students who choose to attend the SIFE program are new to the U.S., the English language, and formal education,” said Molly Hegwood, MNPS’s executive director of English Learners. “They have often experienced hardships in their lives that have brought them to us.


Our SIFE students have already accomplished so much in their lives, and in MNPS, our students have persevered in learning the English language, acquiring academic content, and were determined to leave high school with their diploma. We could not be prouder of these students, their families, and their schools.”

As they prepared to graduate, four SIFE students at Hunters Lane shared their thoughts and advice for young people in similar circumstances, while one, Marcial Perez Arnulfo, simply shared a photo of himself in his blue cap and gown, looking ready for the world. Here’s what they had to say:


Josefa Lopez Alvarez

“Never lower your head, because if you do, you will lose sight of your goals, so keep going in your studies regardless of the difficulties. I know you can achieve it. Study is the ideal route to achieve success in life, so keep with that impetus that characterizes you and you will be a professional. Capabilities is what you have to spare, you just have to be constant in your studies and you will see that you will go very far. Never lose sight of your goals. Many people have managed to work at the same time they carry out their studies, and you will not be the exception, so reconsider your decision and do not abandon your studies, do not be sad for having missed an exam, it is not the end of the world and remember that you do not always win, so go ahead and achieve your goals. Everything in this life is possible to achieve, even the most difficult, if you commit yourself and give your all.

So go ahead and do your best to be efficient in your studies. When you started studying you made a commitment to yourself, so go ahead and improve your study habits, you will see that you will do better. Remember that you are not alone in this. You have many people on your side who encourage you to be better and become a successful professional. Many people would like to have the opportunity that you have to study, so you must feel lucky and keep moving forward until you graduate. Do not forget that in this life we never stop learning, so do your best and keep fighting to make your dreams come true and you will be a great professional.”

Balvino Rosales de la Cruz

“My advice for new students who are learning English would be, the most important thing is to know what is your most efficient way of learning. Not all of us learn things in the same way, some of us are more visual, others more auditory, some of us have good retentiveness, others not so much. What we must do is test how we better understand the concepts to work on, using various options and keeping the best. Depending on this, we base our study plan on that characteristic.”

Guaylin Estrada Lopez

“Fight for your dreams, pay attention, help a lot in your future and put a lot of effort into your job, and study a lot so that your future will be good, and always desire to improve yourselves every day.”

Jocksan Salinas Bonilla

“Hello, my name is Jocksan. I hope that what I am about to say will help you. When one begins to study, one feels that it is difficult and, well, some do not attach importance to it, but the truth is that English is very important. You get a job, you need English and then put a little of your part into it. I know that sometimes you don't want to, you don't feel like it, but when you learn a little English, you feel good because you know that you are putting your part into studying. It's good after being in the classes you are in now, always having friends. Do your part, because here in the United States, one is not much without English. Learn. You will need it later. I hope what I say helps you a little. I know everyone may not be interested, but learn, friend, now that you have time.”

Bravo, Class of 2021

MNPS is proud of the SIFE students; the other ambitious, thoughtful, and compassionate graduates we’ve written about this month, and every other graduate who worked so hard, through an earthshaking pandemic and more, to get to this stage.

Go forth and conquer, good people.

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Class of 2021,Students