When President Obama featured Estiven Rodriguez, a senior at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in the 2014 State of the Union Address, Estiven was overwhelmed by the moment. In a recent interview with Chalkbeat New York, he talked about the experience: “As soon as [Obama] mentions your name, the attention in the room is, like—you can not describe it. It is incredible. Every camera turns to you. Every person looks at you. As soon as he mentions your name, you can not describe it. It’s awesome. Everything stops.”
President Obama told the story of how, when Estiven started school at WHEELS in sixth grade, he did not speak English. Now a senior, Estiven will go to Dickenson College next year on a full scholarship. He credits his teachers at WHEELS for playing a role in his success: “We have teachers who are committed to help you at any cost. They’re there every single day and they’re available, even after school. I remember someone stayed with me until 7pm just to help me. That support group is really important, I think, especially when you’re an English language learner.”
Read the full interview with Estiven here.