The Leandro Factor: student models perservance and the American Dream

Riley Neil, Features editor

Senior Leandro Munoz-Lazo stands in front of his Theater III class, and having completely memorized a monologue, loses himself into his character. He is confident with his speaking and draws the attention of his classmates. Looking at Munoz-Lazo, one could never guess that back in 2008 he knew not one person in the country, no English, and had no idea how to adapt to American culture.

“It was a challenge coming over to the United States [from El Salvador]. I did not know any of the language and only knew my parents. It was really hard to adapt to a whole new culture and a whole new world where I had to make friends that I did not understand at first,” Munoz-Lazo said. “It was hard trying to find my place in a totally different country compared to what I was used to.”

Munoz-Lazo was ten years old when he first came to America. He started off in classes that taught him the basics of English, which was his main goal from the start; he wanted to learn English and then be able to move on into higher level classes. Many different individuals pushed him to strive for success and to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him.

“My fifth grade teacher, Kimberly Brown, who always told me I could do it, even when I said there was no way I could. She always had a positive attitude towards me. My parents also inspire me. They have done so much for me. My dad works from six in the morning to seven at night doing construction work and my mom does a lot for my dad and me. Just the fact that the both of them have suffered so much through life is what makes me want to have a stable career and a life. I want to be able to take care of my own children,” Munoz-Lazo said.

Through these inspiring individuals and by pushing himself, Munoz-Lazo graduated from the English Second Language program and transferred into higher level classes in the sixth grade. It was that moment that made Munoz-Lazo really think that he could be successful, and he was not going to let anyone stop him. He now takes AP classes and college level courses in high school.

“My friends are also a huge part of who inspired me. When it came to college, it clicked to me that everyone was trying to make a career for themselves. It was them who made me realize that it was serious, and I needed to figure out what to do with my life,” Munoz-Lazo said.

Munoz-Lazo plans to go to college and go into nursing, as he wants to have the skills help those around him.

“I’m a big person on helping others. I like nursing and medicine and things about the body. I like learning how it works and its functions. I also want to go into nursing because looking at my mom, who is sixty-one, I want to be able to have the knowledge when something is wrong and how to fix it,” Munoz-Lazo said. “That goes for anyone. I want to be able to help others, whether that is an unknown individual or my family and friends.”

For now, Munoz-Lazo is planning to finish out his senior year by enjoying time with his friends and focusing on theater. He has come a long way from being the little kid amazed at the lack of violence and trash on the American streets, and has learned how to completely adapt in America and make a future for himself.

“I consider myself part of this culture now. I know about America more than I know about my home country.  I have learned the respect we have for the American flag and what that means for us. I say ‘us’ because I consider myself a part of the culture,” Munoz-Lazo said.

Munoz-Lazo’s story is one of perseverance and growth, which made him realize his own worth and what it takes to pave his own path to success.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Anything is possible if you have a positive attitude and work for it,” Munoz-Lazo said.