Skip Navigation

Students Speak Out

Students Speak Out: An American Graduate Special

In this hour-long television special, we find out what it takes to finish high school with four North Texas students who overcame the odds to graduate, and two students still working hard to finish.

Originally premiered Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 7 p.m. on KERA TV.


Leslie Beltran

Leslie dropped out of high school her freshman year and got pregnant at 15. Three years later, she enrolled in Cassata High, a Catholic school in Fort Worth. Leslie works full-time to take care of her son, younger sister and niece, and she plans to attend college and become a nurse.

Jarrell Brown

Jarrell grew up never knowing his biological father and experienced homelessness after his mother divorced his stepfather. He learned to balance school work with extracurricular activities at South Oak Cliff High School – even becoming president of his senior class – all while serving as a role model for his younger brother. Jarrell will attend Howard University in the fall.

Scottie Gipson

Scottie’s childhood was shaped by his father’s frequent stints in prison. He dropped out of school several times and supported himself by selling drugs. Scottie recently returned to school with the encouragement of his sister, uncle and girlfriend, and attends classes at the Lewisville Learning Center. Scottie is on track to graduate in December 2013 and plans to attend the University of North Texas and eventually start his own business.

Mayra Millan

Mayra ranked third in her graduating class at W. H. Adamson High School in Dallas. She was active in several clubs and continues to volunteer at Methodist Hospital in Dallas. Mayra’s mother, a single parent, survived congestive heart failure and is the driving force behind Mayra’s desire to be successful. She’ll attend Texas A&M University this fall as a Gates Millennium Scholar.

Prabhesh Patel

At an early age, Prabhesh lost his father in a car accident that also severely injured his mother. In spite of these challenges, Prabhesh excelled academically and works part-time to help support his family. He graduated from Fort Worth’s South Hills High School and received a full scholarship to attend Texas Christian University in the fall.

Ashley Tilley

Ashley, an honors graduate from Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth, spent much of her childhood in and out of foster care. She works part-time to help support her mother, who has a severe mental illness. Ashley received a full scholarship and will study social work at Texas Christian University.


Return to American Graduate page »