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Melvin Claudio, a 12th grader at Phoenix Academy Lawrence in Lawrence, Mass.
Melvin Claudio, a 12th grader at Phoenix Academy Lawrence in Lawrence, Mass. Credit: Magdalena Slapik for The Hechinger Report

How did you hear about your school, Phoenix Academy Lawrence?

We were going to [Lawrence High School], but my brother’s and my attendance wasn’t good, so they told us to come over here. Lawrence High is in South Lawrence, and I live in Tower Hill. That’s like a 45-minute walk. If I missed the school bus, I was not going. Here, I still walk. It takes me 30 minutes. Yet, I actually do want to be here. Everybody here is like my family.

What makes your school unique?

The environment here is cool ‘cause it’s not as much people. At first it was kinda crazy, ‘cause it was like four or five people in one class. But, then I was like, “Yo, this is probably one of the best things that happened to me, to be honest.” Lawrence High was just too much people in one class.

We have community meetings every Monday and Friday, and we just talk about what work we have done, what achievements people have done, and everybody comes together. They’re school wide. That’s the best thing about it. Everybody has his own voice. If a student wants to talk about a teacher, you can go ahead. If a teacher wants to talk about a student, you can go ahead. One of my best friends, Destiny, she runs it. She runs the whole show.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in school so far?

I just turned 20. When I’m going to leave this place and graduate — that is one of my biggest accomplishments. I’m excited. I thought I wasn’t going to make it, to be honest. I swear to God, I never knew I would get this far. Right now, I got a little current situation going on. My girlfriend’s pregnant. I was like, “Damn, what am I gonna do?” I’m just going to see what’s going on after that.

What do you plan to do after you graduate from high school?

Hopefully, I’m gonna get into UTI for automotive. I applied with my FAFSA just to check if financially I would be good, but not to start courses or anything like that. My cousin used to own a little shop. We used to mess around with the cars. To be honest, I’d just be annoying. Just hang out, and just listen and look what he used to do.

My mom, she’s always just pushing us to go to college. My dad don’t live with us. I haven’t heard from him since I was like three. My mom, she was from the Dominican Republic. She came over here and just didn’t finish high school. They just been working. My stepfather, he’s been doing good. He also don’t have his education, but he’d built a business, a painting business and a construction business. He’s doing good in life right now.

I say I don’t want to go to college, but then, one day, it’s going to be like, “Damn, what am I doing? I have to go to college. I gotta do this, this and that.”

Do you have any extracurricular activities?

I work at Wendy’s. It’s, like, 35 minutes away. I drive over there. I work until sometimes 1 a.m., sometimes 2 a.m. I work in a neighborhood where there’s upper class people. What I do is, I ask them questions. There’s some guy, that, he just buys stocks. Every day, he comes with a newspaper and he just buys stocks. And, he’s like, “Oh, you could make your money here without even doing anything.”

Who is your favorite teacher and why?

I look up to Mr. Beach. That guy is intelligent. He just teaches me about life. Without him, I wouldn’t have my own bank account. I wouldn’t be financially stable how I am now. He set me up to get a loan on my car. I knew my mom wouldn’t show me something like that, and he actually showed me, which is kind of amazing. I was talking to Mr. Beach because he has stocks, too.  Hopefully, by the end of this year, I’mma have a couple stocks as well.

What does success look like to you?

My successful future — well, I’ll be owning my own business, that’s for a fact. And, hopefully, I’ll be having my own house, having a stable job, taking care of my family.

Melvin Claudio was interviewed on 5/25/16. Student interviews were carried out during the 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. Posted grade levels are the grade the students were in when they were interviewed.  

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