Editor’s Note: In today’s post, our own Public Allies Fellow for the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center – Mary Reid Munford – introduces you to Eagle Rock’s latest graduates: Diego Matamoros, Grace Huang, Tiana Matos, and Tehya Brown.
Growing up in Miami, Diego Matamoros switched schools often. When he finally settled on a local public high school, he didn’t do well. “I was never one of those straight A students,” Diego said. “I was always getting Cs and constantly getting in fights with my mom about it.”
Diego was making music, skateboarding, hanging out with friends, and progressively doing more drugs. “The more I used drugs recreationally,” Diego explained, “the more anxiety I would have in school, and the more I would rationalize not being a good student and blame it on the school.”
His counselor recommended Diego enroll in an Outward Bound course, and although it provided a good break and school credit, he slipped back into his old habits when he got home. After his mom caught him skipping school during his senior year, she pulled him out.
It was at that time that he considered attending Eagle Rock, an option first suggested by his Outward Bound instructors. He was already 18 years old and two weeks away from earning his GED, but after a “great conversation” with our own director of students, Philbert Smith, Diego began seriously considering a move across the country to enroll and complete his high school education.
The transition to life at Eagle Rock was far from seamless, Diego admitted. He suffered several setbacks, including leaving early one trimester due to medical issues and then skipping the next. In the end, he credits the supportive community and the help of key figures like his houseparent, Jesse Tovar, who also serves as Eagle Rock’s health and wellness counselor. “Jesse has always been the most supportive figure,” Diego said. “He’s helped guide me, helped me maneuver through the system — but he’s also helped me remain myself while going through this transformation.”
It was during an internship over breaks from Eagle Rock that Diego learned about aromatherapy and living a holistic lifestyle. And he says he might return to this work in the future. He also credits music as one way he’s learned greater life skills. “Living according to Eagle Rock’s ‘Eight Plus Five Equals Ten’ philosophy… it emphasizes the super important things,” Diego explained. “One of them for me is nurturing being an artist. I do that by playing music. It’s a whole kind of way to practice the techniques of life – carefulness, listening…”
Diego plans to combine these interests next year as he applies to colleges in New England and the Midwest to learn more about music therapy.
Grace Huang was 11 years old when an American family adopted her. After spending her childhood in La Paz, Bolivia, she flew across the globe to start a new life in Boston, Mass. She attended school there until two years ago, opting to make another move — this time across the country to boarding school in Colorado.
Grace transferred to Eagle Rock for a more individualized and less distracting learning environment than her home school could offer. “I came to Eagle Rock to have a place to be able to learn at my pace and really understand what I’m learning,” she explained, “And also to really focus on personal and academic growth instead of everything else.”
As with most students, the transition to communal living was the most challenging aspect of Grace’s move. “The hardest part was having to be in a community with people I’m not used to or want to be around,” she said.
After six trimesters spent attending courses and living on campus at Eagle Rock, Grace cites her academic learning as one of the most powerful ways she has grown here. “Teachers have forced me to Continue reading…