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Student Stories

A Fight Beyond the Ring: A Teen Boxer’s Journey Through Loss and Love to High School Graduation

March 6th, 2024
Graduate smiles as he prepares to walk into his graduation ceremony

Jesus Cruz is the son of a resilient single mother raising seven children who tirelessly worked day and night to support her family. He shares his journey from the tragic loss of a loved one to high school graduation.

Finding Motivation After Loss

As a younger child, he got into a lot of trouble but did well in school. Everything was going well for Jesus in high school until around sophomore year. He also lost a relationship, which hit him hard. However, soon after, a tragic event hit him even harder: the overdose and passing of his cousin, Chichi. His mother needed support, so he gave up school to work.

To cope, Jesus dove into the sport of boxing and developed ambitious dreams of a future of professional boxing. That dream was halted when he experienced another significant setback. He had prioritized a relationship over boxing, which ended abruptly, leading to disappointment. Then, a traumatizing car accident left him unable to drive and emotionally shaken.

At his mother’s urging, Jesus decided to make a change. He reevaluated his path and committed to creating positive changes in his life. With new determination, Jesus redirected his focus toward education, which meant re-enrolling in high school and getting his diploma. After years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance, he achieved a significant milestone: graduating as part of the Class of 2023.

Graduate yells in celebration after earning his diploma

Before Chichi’s death, Jesus had promised to win a championship belt in boxing once he turned professional. He aims to honor his cousin’s memory and make him proud. Looking ahead, Jesus expressed his intention to resume his boxing career while continuing his education with aspirations of entering the real estate and business fields.

Inspired and Looking Forward

At the graduation ceremony in July of 2023, Jesus addressed his fellow graduates on stage as a keynote speaker. He congratulated everyone on their achievements, emphasizing that graduation marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. He encouraged them to embrace opportunities, pursue their passions, and shape their destinies, highlighting their potential to make a difference in society. They have already overcome so much in their young lives; there is much more to accomplish.

Graduate speaker addresses friends, family, and fellow graduates

Jesus is thankful for the Grad Solutions teachers, mentors, and staff who supported him and other graduates throughout their academic journey. He dedicated the moment of his graduation to his ultimate inspiration —his mother, Angelica Pena, for her sacrifices and unwavering support. He acknowledged her as the key reason for his success. Most of all, he remembers his cousin ChiChi, who he knows would have been proud.

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