MISSION - Jonathan Arteaga has come a long way since middle school. He's changed the way he dressed, his behavior and who he associated with. Arteaga was a member of Sureno Trece, a Southside gang.
"I was part of the gang, I was active in the gang. What we did is cause fights all the time during school and I was an active part of that," says Jonathan Arteaga, McAllen High School Senior.
But with the help of a mentor, Arteaga morphed his life. He went from a below average student to a member of the National Honor Society. Even speaking to all the McAllen teachers and the Superintendent about his experience and transformation.
"What I talked to them about was the life of a student. And how teacher-student relationship is vital to the student's success in high school. For example, with me and Mr. Flores, if it wasn't for him stepping in and helping me out when I was a gangster, I wouldn't be here today, as a matter of fact I probably would have dropped out," said Arteaga.
Arteaga is also one of the speakers in the 2011 STC Annual Summit on College Readiness and Access. This meeting brings together administrators and faculty from all levels of education to discuss the reality of how prepared student really are for college.
"Are they graduating from high school college-ready and ready to go on their pathway to a degree or a certificate? Or are they needing remediation and some help?" said Dr. Luzelma Canales, STC Administrator.
In this region 50% of the population, over the age of 25, has earned less than a high school diploma.
"If we can focus and get all our high school students college-ready before they go to college then we can really focus on remediating the adults, those that have been out for awhile," said Canales.
Arteaga tried to reach out to many of his old gang friends, he said he helped some but a few have already dropped out with just a GED.
"After you mentor one student, it becomes easier because that student can help out other students and become their mentor, so it goes on and on," said Arteaga.
Arteaga lives by the motto, "You have to believe before you can see something happen." This is exactly what he is doing, with plans to attend UTPA in the Fall to study pre-law.