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Perspective | The trajectory of your future truly depends on you

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My name is Ashley Ramos-Iglesias, and I am a first-generation Salvadoran American born to two immigrant parents.

I am about to be the first one in my family to graduate from high school! 

I will graduate from a type of public charter high school that many people in North Carolina may not even know exists. And without it, I might have become just another statistic.

Courtesy of Commonwealth High School

By the time my mom was my age, she already had two children. When my father was deported in 2010, it left my mom as a single mother to two kids ages 4 and 5. Even though my mother did not have a high school diploma, and we constantly lived paycheck to paycheck, she always stressed working hard. She and my grandmother are admirable women who made sure we had everything we needed as children. Even with all their efforts, we had to make sacrifices. 

While growing up I attended six different schools by the time I finished middle school. Once in high school, I attended three more schools, until I ended up at my final school, Commonwealth High School in Charlotte. 

The mission of Commonwealth is “to help students at-risk of not graduating earn a standard high school diploma and prepare for postsecondary success.” Its three pillars of success are that student learning is flexible, personalized, and supported.

The constant change in my education, particularly in high school, made it nearly impossible to get on the same academic level as kids in my grade and resulted in difficulty making new friends. As the constant outsider, I experienced bullying and felt alone.

Because I had succeeded academically in elementary and middle school, I was placed in honors and Advanced Placement courses throughout high school. However, by the time I was 17, I was far below grade level, having only nine credits as a junior. This was largely due to the confusing process of transferring credits from my previous high schools, lumped in with the COVID school years, which made it harder to catch up academically, as well as needing to work to help support my family.

I got to the point of thinking, “why do I keep trying?”

Given my situation, I began to gravitate to what many would consider the “wrong crowd,” as trying to fit in not only brought me down but got me into trouble. 

It was at this point I began to realize that I was the exact same age as my mom when she had me. There were multiple directions I could have gone at that point, but I wanted to prove that coming from immigrant teen parents does not have to be the only chapter of my story.

I started to look for options in hopes of changing the trajectory of my life. I reached out to everyone I thought might be able to give me direction. That’s when a former teacher told me about Commonwealth, a school that focuses on students like me. 

She informed me that Commonwealth is a school that has fewer students, fewer distractions, and more one-on-one help for academics. Seeing this as an opportunity to change my path, I transferred to Commonwealth High School in March 2023. 

Even though I was trying my best to turn over this new leaf and achieve the success I knew I was capable of, it was a very difficult shift at first. 

Commonwealth presents a totally different way of learning, known I am told as competency-based education.

My schedule functioned around my work commitments.

Learning happened at my own pace and my own academic level with targeted interventions designed for me.

This new model of learning also allowed me to receive a more personalized education.

I was able to gain and recover the credits I needed towards a North Carolina high school diploma — 15 credits in the span of a year!

The school’s consistent culture of support also provided me with the vision and tools I needed for my future.  While enrolled, I earned my CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification for completing a CTE track provided by the school for free!

As a student who believes in the way my school approaches learning, I began to give tours to new students to show them what the possibilities are for their future. I do these tours to show that if this young woman from an immigrant family can achieve her goals despite all the distractions that surrounded my life, that if I can make a difference, then so can they.

I am happy to report that I will be graduating, on time, with the class of 2024 with a high school diploma and CNA certification at 18 years old. With plans to study nursing at Central Piedmont Community College and a future to look forward to, I know that I have put my best foot forward and the best is yet to come. 

My mother raised me to understand that the only person that can control the change in one’s life is themselves. Attending Commonwealth allowed me to experience firsthand that the trajectory of your future truly depends on you.

Editor’s Note: Commonwealth High School is operated by Accelerated Learning Solutions.  Accelerated Learning Solutions is a network of 24 schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia serving “students who are behind, at risk of dropping out, or who simply need a different kind of learning environment.” In North Carolina, they also operate Stewart Creek High School in Charlotte and Central Wake High School in Raleigh.

Ashley Ramos-Iglesias

Ashley Ramos-Iglesias attends Commonwealth High School, a public charter school in Charlotte.