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Turning it around

A clear, sunny sky hosted an Austin High School tradition Wednesday as students in the three lower classes lined the hallways for the Senior Send-off.

The graduating class of nearly 300 students ran the gauntlet of applauding teachers, underclassmen and school staff, ending outside the high school's main door. Javier Molina was among the first out the door.

When he was in ninth grade, Molina used to go to school only about three times a week, in some cases only for an hour or two.

When he went to class, he used to bug his teachers. He says he went to in-school suspension frequently.

"If we wanted to leave, we left," he said.


But one by one, five of his friends dropped out of school altogether. Javier decided to change course. He decided he didn't want to go to the principal's office anymore.

"It was just like, 'Why am I doing this?' I'm not going to graduate if I keep doing what I do," he said.

That was two years ago. Now, Molina is at a point where he'll have another decision to make. He said he's thought about enrolling at Riverland Community College, but lately he has been leaning more toward the U.S. Navy or the Marines.

Javier is the third-youngest child in a family of nine boys and four girls. He moved to Austin six years ago from Brownsville, Texas. When he came to Austin High School as a ninth-grader, he was "a pistol," Principal Brad Bergstrom said.

Molina was assigned to Brittany Meyers' classroom. Meyers is a mental health professional who teaches life skills in a program at AHS called Level 3. The program is aimed at teaching students life skills they can use to be productive inside and outside the classroom. She says less than 10 percent of the student population at Austin High School are in Level 3.

Many of the other seniors in the program will graduate this year, but just barely. Not so with Javier Molina, she says.

"Most kids stay in the same patterns," Meyers said. "They have similar goals but they don't take the steps necessary to change their circumstances."

Turning himself around wasn't that difficult, Molina said. He started going to class more often and got there on time. He did his classwork and raised his hand when had a question.


"He's done an outstanding job," said Dave Eyres, who teaches math and language arts in Level 3. "He's got the life skills to make it in the workplace."

He still sees the friends he used to ditch school with, but they don't hang out as often as they used to.

"I'll see them around the city sometimes and it's just like, 'What's up?' but that's it," he said.

Molina will be among the group of Austin seniors who will walk across the stage at Riverside Arena tonight.

"I'm happy. I'm excited," he said. "I just want to get out of here."

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