Age 18.
Graduate of Sandalwood High School. Attending University of North Florida.

Yuri arrived in the United States from Bogota, Colombia in 2007.

He did not speak a word of English, but that didn’t stop him. When Yuri meets obstacles, he tends to vault over them with an ease that startles those around him.

But Yuri didn’t always feel that way. When he arrived at Sandalwood High School as a freshman, he enrolled in ESOL classes.

“I was really scared,” he said. But, he said, he also knew he had to reach out to make friends in order to learn the language more quickly.

So he started trying to hang out with “American kids.”

By sophomore year, he was speaking English well—so well, in fact, that he enrolled in an Advanced Placement World History class and excelled in it. In deciding which foreign language class to take, he chose French over his native Spanish.

Thanks to Ms. Hendrix, his mentor, ninth-grade geography teacher and AP World History teacher, Yuri had a mentor to consult with when he struggled in school.

Without them, Yuri thinks it would have taken a lot longer for him to be successful in school.

Meanwhile, he found receptive friends at Sandalwood. Senior year, he ran for class Secretary and was elected.

“The day I got my green card, I told my best friend,” Yuri said. “He told other people, and the next day, half the school was wearing green. It was really special.”

Now aspiring to become a doctor, Yuri attends college and spends his free time tutoring other students struggling to learn English.