Operation Graduation 2015: Ivan Torres (Chicago Northwest)

Christmas with Family and Friends

A good old friend of mine brought me to Ombudsman. His name is Tommy Hack, and it all happened by fate as it seemed that I talked to him about school. It started on a snowy winter day right after New Year. My parents were on vacation in Mexico and they left me all alone too see if I could be responsible on my own. I was right of course; “I’m probably even more responsible than my dad.” I thought in my mind. The only thing I couldn’t control was how badly I sucked at cooking. I tried and tried but nothing I made tasted like my mom’s cooking so eventually I gave up and started eating out.

My friends all wanted to eat together that day because they all spent New Years with their families; I was by myself on New Year so I just watched Channel 5 News until the fireworks came up, but we all wanted to have a secondary New Year celebration with the “boys”. We all decided to go to Red Robin and scarf down all the food we could afford. My friend Anthony wanted to drive so he picked up all the boys. It was Anthony, Jay, Robert, and me all headed to Red Robin, with my friend Chris and a few of his family members already waiting there. The whole car ride was how they were so happy that their first semester of college was finally over and how exciting it was. I stayed quite because I didn’t even finish High School yet. To say the least I felt like a bum. We finally arrived to Red Robin, and we all looked at the glowing red sign with a twinkle in our eyes because we knew it was about to go down.

I walked in first with a stomach full of commands to eat the nearest object around me. As I walked in I saw my old friend Tommy Hack working as a greeter. I shook up with him and said “good to see you man it’s been so long!” He replied, “Ivan! It’s been too long!” I laughed and we started to converse about our current lives, when he said, “come here I’ll take care of you guys,” and he showed us to our seats. He took our order and he was real nice to us, even gave us a couple of free entrées, and for that we tipped him double. It was getting close to our departure when Tommy sat next to me to continue our conversation.

He was like me, a failure of High School. I told him how mad I was and how I was actually motivated to change my life around, I saw a lot of things in those few months after high school, and I knew I couldn’t stay the way I was so I changed. He just smiled and told me the solution to all my problems. He said, “Dude just sign up to Ombudsman! They’ll totally take you and you get a CPS diploma not a GED.” My mouth watered at the thought of a regular diploma, and he just continued telling me how he attended Ombudsman and how we can finish on our own time. I looked at Tommy and thanked him, as all my friends wanted to leave so we left. We left him his tip, and I never saw the man again, but I will forever be grateful to him for showing me about this school, because of him I got back on track.

I arrived at Ombudsman and at first glance it is nothing special at all. In fact I wasn’t sure they were serious about me at first. I would just come in and sit down and do my work. The same pattern happened for a few days until Mr. P finally came up to me and asked if I needed help. I guess he oversaw how I was struggling with geometry. I learned fast in his eyes so I felt like I should work harder and harder. He would ask me everyday how I was doing and if I needed any help. I would always say no because I wanted to try by myself before he helped me. I do not know if that gained his respect or not but whenever he talked about me he would give me the upmost honor, and that just made me want to work harder than before. That was what made me really love Ombudsman, how everyone had a teacher to always help them and motivate them, and just because we were here to regain credits, they didn’t give us the easy way out. We had to earn them and learn no matter what.

Ombudsman made me realize that there are much greater things than construction out there. I even applied to college to learn about aerospace engineering! My current job has background on that, but I never would have known if my teachers wouldn’t have pushed me to look at the big picture. I still don’t see everything clearly but the fuzz is finally starting to fade away. I’m growing each and everyday, and I make sure I’m humble. I’ll always remember what Ombudsman is about; it is like the Chicago motto basically. We wake up, we grind, and we make the day better no matter what and no matter how hard we have to go about it we do it period.