Matthew’s Story: HFO Kid, 2008
by: Loren Carriere
Before I had ever met Matt I got a phone call from his dad. Matt’s dad was living in New Mexico and had been in prison for several years. When he heard about the possibility of Matt coming into our program, he found a way to call me and begged me to let Matt get in. At the time we were full, but it was obvious that I needed to do everything in my power to find a way to make things work to get him in.
That was three years ago, and I have never questioned that decision once. Matt will likely win either the Most Likely to Succeed award or the SweetHeart award his senior year of High School. He is one of the hardest working students that comes to HFO and definitely one of the most genuinely loving. This work ethic was probably passed on to Matt by his mom.
Matt’s mom is like many of the moms of our kids. She has had a tough life and wants Matt to have a better shot then her, her brothers, and his dad. She pushes Matt hard and is working as hard as she can to keep him from falling into any of the traps that are set for him growing up in the Hill Neighborhood.
Matt is the oldest of four boys and his youngest brother has down syndrome. He lives with his mom and stepdad and often plays the role of the big bro, helping get groceries, feeding his little brothers, and making them get to bed on time.
For Matt HFO is less about desperately needing help with school work, but more about desperately needing a place belong. The streets of Opelousas are a hard place to grow up, and fitting in usually requires failing school, fighting for your street cred, and getting involved in the dope game. HFO has become a safe environment for Matt to make friends and for his unique gifts to get fanned to flame.
On our last Adventure Crew Trip to Colorado, we happed to be traveling through New Mexico and were able to stop to have lunch with Matt’s family. His dad had recently been released from prison, and Matt was able to see his dad for the first time in 5 years. This was probably the most emotional moment on our trip. After a 2hr visit we had to be on our way. I watched every kid in our van cry with Matt as we left his family. What a beautiful twist in the unfolding story of us getting to know Matt.
Last week we attended the South Street Elementary 6th Grade Graduation of which Mr. Matt Sanchez was the Master of Ceremony! He did a fine job officiating the ceremony and looked good doing it! He graduated with Honors and a 3.33 cumulative GPA.
Because of the adversity Matt has overcome in his short life, I know without a doubt he will go on to do great things!! Remember the name Matthew Sanchez!