As Lawrence High School graduate Jonathan Claure looks forward to beginning his higher education this fall at Nassau Community College, the liberal arts major said the road to graduation wasn’t always a smooth one.
In his sophomore year, Claure joined SHARP — Success in a High School Academic Reform Program — a district program for struggling students. “It’s different, because there are smaller classes, and the teachers focus more on you so you can’t get as easily distracted,” he said. “I got better in all of my classes because it was easier to pay attention.”
Getting help with his homework at home in Inwood wasn’t a possibility, because Claure’s mother, Monica Contreras, who came to the U.S. from Bolivia in 1992 in search of a better life for herself and the family she planned on having, didn’t grasp it. His father, Eduardo Claure, splits his time between Bolivia and the U.S., working in both countries. “At first it was hard because [my mother] didn’t understand my homework,” Jonathan said. “But eventually I was able to do it myself, and she learned and can now help my three little brothers.”
Not wanting to see her son fail, Contreras contacted administrators at the high school. “I asked them to help him more with his homework,” she said. “I don’t speak English that well, but I understand, and the school helped a lot. Everyone in the school loves my kids, so it made it easier.”
Claure said that his brothers — Kevin, a junior at Lawrence High School; Gerardo, a seventh-grader at Lawrence Middle School; and Jordan, a first-grader at the Number Two School — look up to him. “It makes me and my mom proud while setting an example for my little brothers,” he said. “It shows them that there’s more than just having fun and playing around. School comes first.”
On June 24, as Contreras watched her eldest child walk across the stage at the Lawrence High School graduation at the LIU Post Tilles Center, tears streamed down her face. “I was very happy, and I want the best for him,” she said of Jonathan. “He’s my first; he’s my eyes.”
Nerthi Sanchez, a youth outreach counselor at the Five Towns Community Center, has known Claure since he joined the center’s after-school program in sixth grade. “He’s trustworthy, responsible, hard working and has a great sense of humor,” she said. “He’s also a quick learner.”
Sanchez was thrilled when Claure graduated from high school. “I was very proud because I was connected to him,” she said. “You invest in a person’s life and it’s rewarding to know he graduated. I want him to be a happy and productive adult.”
Claure said he plans on earning an associate’s degree, and then transferring to a four-year university to pursue a career in the medical field. “I want to help people; it gives me a good feeling when I’m helping somebody,” he said. “I also want to have a good job, so I can own my own house and car and set an example when I have my own kids.”
Though Contreras hasn’t been back to Bolivia to visit her family since she arrived in Inwood, knowing her children are receiving a great education has eased her homesickness. “I want the best for my kids,” she said. “I say all the time that I want my kids to have a better life. That was my sacrifice for them.”
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