As part of LAUSD's Student & Teacher of the Month program, the Los Angeles Rams and CBS-2/KCAL-9 representatives paid a visit to John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills for a school assembly recognizing a student and teacher who have triumphed through difficult times, accomplished great feats and inspired others.
Forced to grow up quickly at a young age, senior Andrew Maximo looks after his single mother and two younger siblings. His father left the family when he was in the 5th grade and his mother decided to immigrate to the United States from Honduras in 2016.
"I know I've been through a lot, but I still manage to keep a smile on my face because I want to make other people smile," said Maximo.
Maximo reclassified to English proficiency in less than three years while shouldering the difficult task of earning a 3.7 GPA and maintaining a part-time job. He also decided to join the school's football team his freshman year and later joined the soccer team the following year. This year, he joined a club that engages students in community service programs such as campus and beach clean up as well as volunteering at local community events.
Furthermore, Kennedy High School's Spanish teacher Jacinto Garcia began his teaching career in 2008 as a substitute at San Fernando Middle School. However, due to the unstable financial climate in the country at the time, the school was only able to keep him for one year. In 2009, Garcia became the cross country and track coach at Reseda High School, leading them to a city title in his first year. When his team proceeded to the state championships, an LA City Section Assistant Commissioner approached him about a position coaching at John F. Kennedy High School.
As thrilled as Garcia was to coach, it was still difficult for him to make ends meet even with two additional jobs. He became homeless for approximately two years and lived out of a Chevy Suburban that his friend had lent him, sleeping outside Kennedy High School's campus.
"I would park the car right outside campus off of Woodley," said Garcia. "At 6 o'clock in the morning, I would hear a guy open the gate and that was my cue. I'd hear the chains unlocking and that was my signal to wake up."
Eventually, Garcia's persistence paid off and he was offered a long-term substitute position to teach Spanish at Kennedy. In short time, his role began to expand as he quickly went from teacher and coach to Assistant Athletic Director, Student Leadership teacher and Treasurer. While many believe he'd taken on too large of a workload, Garcia was steadfast in gaining more responsibility and serving as a role model for students.
"I just love the interactions with the kids," said Garcia. "At the end of the day, that's what we're here for…it's about helping our youth."
Both honorees received their own personalized Rams jerseys as well as four tickets to the Rams regular season home opener in an NFC Championship rematch against the New Orleans Saints on September 15 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
To conclude the assembly, new CBS This Morning anchor DeMarco Morgan provided the student body with an encouraging piece of advice.
"You may not have a 3.7 GPA or even a 2.5 GPA… but you know what? Don't let anybody write you off because you can still be somebody," said Morgan.