As the Poway Adult School's Learning Center door opens and students begin to enter, there is a person who always stands out. His smile is always the first thing one notices. This happens every day the center is open, rain or shine. It's hard to believe that there was once a time when the dedication to learning and perseverance to succeed was not his number one priority.
As he was growing up, Rodney Lacanienta made some poor choices, which included using drugs and joining a gang when he was 13 years old. By the time he was a junior in high school, he had been removed from school for several offenses, including drug use and fighting. He found himself in and out of institutions for the next several years.
In hopes of changing his ways, Rodney decided to leave San Diego and start fresh in Nevada. Unfortunately, he found it easier to continue along the same path. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to time in prison where he spent the next eight years of his life. According to Rodney, while living on the inside he soon learned that he had to constantly be aware of his surroundings because his life could be taken as a result of what was essentially someone else's problem.
During his time in prison, he realized it had been eight years since he had spoken to his parents. That separation, as well as the dangers he faced in prison, pushed him to turn his life around. The day he was released, he called his mom and asked for help. Her response was to tell Rodney how much she loved him. After their conversation, he made the decision to give away his belongings and move back to San Diego. More importantly, Rodney decided to remove himself from any temptations that might pull him back into his previous life. He also began attending church with his parents. He is presently very active with youth groups and also plays drums with the church group.
His dad recommended he return to school and complete the requirements necessary to earn a high school diploma. At that point, Rodney realized he had no skills and school presented a fear of failure. Even though he was scared, he contacted Poway Adult School. On November 2, 2015, Rodney began classes to earn his diploma. Riding the bike his dad purchased for him to get to school, Rodney has not ever missed a day. He has excelled and become a role model to his fellow students. His teachers admire the quality and determination he demonstrates as he completes assignments.
Rodney chose to take advantage of the support made available through the Poway Adult School ASE program. Ms. Gomez, being a veteran teacher, took Rodney under her wing, nurtured him, and built upon each of his course-work successes. Working in tandem with Ms. Gomez, the school's ASE Counselor Ms. Perez closely monitored Rodney's credits and offered encouragement whenever needed. Because of his readiness and willingness to believe in himself, and others' commitment to support his efforts, this Poway Adult School team saw Rodney excel and become a confident, driven, and successful young man.
Rodney is well on his way to a career that will make the world a better place, and is so far from the wrong road the 13-year-old boy took that led to such a dark place.
Rodney graduated in August, 2017, gave the student commencement speech at the ceremony, and will begin his next goal of earning his degree in Theology at Calvary Bible College in Murietta, California.