Every Student Succeeding: Christian Lopez

Christian Lopez grew up in Cuscatancingo, El Salvador, home to the infamous 18th Street Gang. El Salvador has a murder rate that is 22 times that of the United States. In 2014, Christian’s mom arranged for her son to move to California to live with his dad. He enrolled in LA Unified School District at Cesar Chavez Learning Academies. He knew little to no English but his writing soon made an impact in the classroom. Christian quickly impressed his teachers but at the end of the day, his motivation is his family back in El Salvador. He says his hope is to one day find a way to move his family to California so they can escape the crime-ridden country of El Salvador. Christian has known since he arrived in the US that by getting an education, he can help the people he left behind.


Oct. 3, 2017

LAUSD immigrant flourishes after dangerous childhood in El Salvador

Christian Lopez’s journey to the United States was anything but easy. So, too, was his childhood in El Salvador.

“I saw so many things,” Christian said. “From somebody being robbed to somebody being killed.”

He grew up in Cuscatancingo, home to the infamous 18th Street Gang. In fact, gang violence turned El Salvador into the murder capital of the world. There was an average of nearly one homicide per hour in the first three months of 2016. El Savador has a murder rate 22 times that of the United States.

“Gang life over there is really, really bad,” Christian said. “I wasn’t happy anymore. I would go to school but I would always be afraid that somebody was going to come behind me. I told my mom, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t want to live like this.’”

In 2014, Christian’s mom arranged for her son to move to California to live with his dad. He enrolled in LA Unified School District at Cesar Chavez Learning Academies. He knew little to no English. And yet, he immediately made an impact in the classroom.

“I was shocked and stunned that somebody who had been there that amount of time could learn English that quickly and speak it at that high of a level,” Cesar Chavez Learning Academies teacher Cesar Valadez said. “And write it at that high of a level.”

Teachers were so impressed with his writing that they wondered if it was all too good to be true. One teacher went as far to confirm Christian did not plagiarize his work.

“So when I saw his writing early on, I’m like, ‘How does someone who’s been in this country for such a short period of time write so well?’” Cesar Chavez Learning Academies teacher William Chavez said. “But Christian, from the very first essay, from the very first writing sample, he’s always been consistent.”

His maturity is unprecedented for a high school student. His commitment to not only learning a new language but thriving in his new environment is apparent.

“In many ways, he’s an adult,” Valadez said. “He’s an adult in the way he carries himself. He’s an adult in the responsibilities he’s taking on. He’s an adult in the fact that he doesn’t see school as just school. He sees it as his job which I think most students should do.”

But at the end of the day, Christian’s motivation is his family back in El Salvador. They are his motivation. He says his hope is to one day find a way to move his family to California so they can escape the crime-ridden country of El Salvador.

“I think it does boil down to the fact that he understands that he came here and he’s separated from the people he loves,” Valadez said. “So if he’s going to make that sacrifice, he’s going to make that sacrifice for something that’s worth it. And education is worth it for him. He understands that by getting an education, he can help the people he left behind.”

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