Onelio Mencho Aguilar, a teacher at T.C. Williams High School International Academy, immigrated to the US from Guatemala at 13 years of age
Aguilar traveled here alone, only speaking his native Mayan language. He spent months looking for a home, spending many hungry, homeless days. He ended up in Virginia, enrolled at the same high school he works at now, and patient instructors taught him English, Spanish, and a love for learning. Without a stable home and parental support, he missed his rent payments, sleep, and homework. The staff at the school recognized the difficulties and helped Aguilar be placed in foster care. He found the support and love he had never experienced before.
After graduation Aguilar was accepted at Marymount University and received a degree. He now works with some of the same instructors who mentored him as a young person. He is an English instructor to immigrant and international students from other countries who have a poor or no grasp of the English language. Patricia Gordon, an educator at T.C. Williams, said Aguilar could speak firsthand to the issues the students face. He was in their shoes, encountered obstacles, and overcame them. He has students from Bolivia, Honduras, The Philippines, El Salvador, and Guatemala in his classroom.
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Aguilar accepted the teaching position to be a holdover until he could go to law school. It was only supposed to last for a few months. He ended up finding his place as a teacher and fell in love with teaching the students. He spends extra hours helping immigrant students, assisting with school projects, acting as a translator, and helping teenagers through tough times by expressing his own experiences. He knows what to look for, when to back off, and when to prod and step in to help.
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