Dany Solares Rodriquez is an inspiring success story. The teenager came to Huntington High School from Guatemala in the spring of 2019 and he will graduate with the Class of 2020.
“He had great dreams and little English, but most importantly he was surrounded by a wonderful family here and those he left behind in Guatemala, who have been cheering him on,” said Teresa Connolly, a Huntington High School English as a new language teacher who has been working with Mr. Solares.
Following graduation, the teenager plans to work and save for college. “In the future, I would like to continue studying, but I’m not really clear about what,” he said. “I am interested in something related to health or dermatology, but I would also like to study to be a chef.”
Mr. Solares received support and encouragement upon his arrival from his cousin, Nayely Estrada, also a member of Huntington’s Class of 2020. “She has always been there to support me, help me and give me a hand with anything related to school,” Mr. Solares said. “Since I started going to school, she has always been close to me, showing me the school and helping me with my classes. Nayely has always encouraged me to keep going. There is a phrase that she has always had for me: ‘We are going to graduate together. You will see.’ Here we are now and we will graduate together.”
Mr. Solares’ command and use of English was limited upon his arrival to being able to greet people, expressing his thanks and basic requests.
One of the teenager’s first adventures in the high school cafeteria was memorable. “I remember one time when I didn’t know anything about the food in the school,” Mr. Solares said “I just pointed to the food that I wanted because I didn’t know the names. It was funny.”
Mr. Solares has especially loved how Huntington High School sponsors such a varied slate of activities. One of his happiest moments came when he joined United Amigos in September 2019. “It was the only club I was able to join and it was fun,” he said. “We were always united and we all had fun together. We were at the activities at the prep rally, bonfire and K-Factor. Being able to participate in these activities has been the most fun since I have been here.”
Math teacher Cindy Espejo-McGivey and Mrs. Connolly have provided key assistance to Mr. Solares. Mrs. Espejo-McGivey encouraged the teenager to challenge himself and enroll in Regents Algebra. “I took it and I passed,” he proudly said. “Mrs. Espejo’s class was one of my favorites. She was always willing to listen to us if something happened and always offered support and friendship.”
Mrs. Connolly has been equally important. “She is a kind teacher and has a big heart,” Mr. Solares said. “She was always pushing us and was always supportive and encouraging.”
The most valuable and interesting classes were difficult for Dany because he not only was learning the content, but the language,” Mrs. Connolly said.
“They were the most complicated classes, but I think what helped me the most was being with people who speak the language perfectly,” Mr. Solares said. “I was always listening to something fundamental that would help me with the class.”
It’s hard not to feel inspired by someone who is as hard working as Mr. Solares. He came to Huntington with a list of goals he wanted to accomplish and he’s been checking them off one at a time.
“The people at Huntington High School have made me feel special,” Mr. Solares said. “In the hallways, people would always smile or say hello. People were always willing to help me. I will always remember Huntington as a second home where I feel welcomed. You can feel free, have a good time and always make a friend. I will miss spending time with friends and having fun.”
Mr. Solares is leaving behind many happy memories. “I will miss United Amigos and the many activities in school,” he said. “Really, I will miss the whole school because it has been a place where I could have fun and make friends.”
After working so hard to complete the requirements for a diploma, Mr. Solares has some words of wisdom for those who are following in his footsteps.
“For other students like me who are learning English in high school, I would say to them, ‘I know it is not easy to face all you have to face when you first come to the United States, but this is a great road,’” Mr. Solares said. “It is necessary to continue every day and strive with great force each day. Things happen when you least imagine it. Always work hard and stay focused on what you want to achieve. Don’t think about how difficult and hard it can be, but know it will benefit you. Just stay positive and enthusiastic and you will achieve it.”