William Lopez Turns His Life Around at BOCES
By Jeanne Sager
YOUNGSVILLE March 20, 2007 They call him the mayor of the Youngsville school.
Not bad for a kid who’d given up on school two years ago, intent on dropping out, getting a GED and a job.
William Lopez is in tenth grade at the alternative school run by BOCES in the former Youngsville elementary school in the quiet hamlet.
He’s on the honor roll. He claims the highest average in the sophomore class in social studies, math and science.
When kids on the streets in Jeffersonville ask, “what happened to you man, I heard you dropped out, I heard you don’t go to school anymore,” Lopez shakes his head.
“No, I go to Youngsville now,” he says proudly. “I’m going to graduate.”
At 17, Lopez can already admit he was once “young and stupid.”
In his home district of Sullivan West, Lopez was once suspended for half a year.
He said he “accidentally” hit a teacher.
“I jumped off the bleachers, and he was there,” Lopez explained sheepishly.
Lopez had already failed ninth grade once when he decided he’d had it.
He was 15, and he gave up. He stopped doing his homework. He spent the better portion of his life getting written up by his teachers.
“I didn’t care,” Lopez recalled. “I was the type of person… I’d get a job and work for the rest of my life.”
Lopez told the Sullivan West guidance counselors he wanted to sign up for the GED test.
Passing would mean he’d earn a “graduate equivalency diploma,” and he’d walk out of school.
But the test date came, and Lopez, not yet 16, wasn’t allowed to sit for the exam.
The counselors told him he’d have to wait another year.
Then they told him about this school in Youngsville, a place that promises an “alternative education.”
Lopez transferred in the ninth grade, and slowly made a turn-around.
He works with his grandfather at Peters Auction Barn and on the Peters farm.
He’s seen manual labor.
He’d rather slave over a stove for a good salary.
In a year and a half, Lopez will graduate from the Youngsville school and enter the culinary program at Sullivan County Community College.
His face lights up when he talks about cooking the same way it does when he talks about basketball.
His dad who got a GED a long time ago used to allow William in the kitchen to help out when he was a kid.
“I’ve ALWAYS liked cooking,” Lopez explained. “Once I start, it’s just fun for me.”
Lopez said his dad now has a “decent job,” but his step-brother, a dropout with a GED, “never did anything sufficient with his life.”
His family was happy when he entered the Youngsville school, Lopez said.
“They wanted me to do something better for myself,” he explained.
Life is better for Lopez these days.
He’s not one of the “bad kids” at the Youngsville school.
He’s the kid alternative school administrator AJ Berger calls the mayor.
“He is always respectful, he’s a great help here, a great role model,” Berger said. “He helps the middle school students, he helps Mr. Buddenhagen in the gym.”
Science teacher Gina Conroy says Lopez isn’t “one of the punks.”
He walked into the school in ninth grade, when most kids are still caught up in themselves, when they’re “punks.”
“He realized an education was going to benefit him,” Conroy said. “I think he has the right maturity and right type of attitude to get ahead.”
His maturity brushes off on the other students.
Kids know Lopez goes with the flow, being outgoing and good-natured.
“When someone says something… I don’t say anything back. I don’t want to start something,” he said.
Lopez has more important things on his mind.
“Here, I feel like I could do something more with my life,” he said.
He sees his name listed on the honor roll, and he works harder.
“I think, if I can do that I can do better,” he explained.
Maybe he’ll make principal’s list, next. Maybe he’ll have the highest average in every subject.
There’s no maybe about the next year and a half for Lopez.
“I work on the farm doing actual hard work. I’d rather have a desk job or something cooking…” he said. “I’m going to graduate.”
Following in his footsteps will be every other kid he’s touched.
“I call him the mayor because he gets along with everyone, and I think everyone looks up to him,” Berger said. “He’s just a great kid, a great kid.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories saluting teens who have turned their lives around. It will culminate with a look at the school that’s helped them, the BOCES Youngsville Alternative School.