Back when he was a student at T.C. Williams High, Onelio Mencho Aguilar was adrift — and alone. He found a purpose at the school and returned to teach students who, like him, are immigrants.
“Fiction,” the student said in English, before switching to Spanish. “That’s stuff that didn’t really happen, right?”
It’s a question Aguilar often faces about his own life story.
Friendless and disoriented, Aguilar spent months crisscrossing the country, seeking sanctuary. At times homeless, always hungry, he worked odd jobs. Eventually, he found his way to Virginia and enrolled at T.C. Williams High, where patient instructors taught him Spanish, English and a newfound love for learning.
But — lacking adult support and a stable home, unable to work full time and make all his classes — the teen foundered. He missed rent, homework and sleep.
T.C. Williams staffers saw something was wrong. They stepped in to offer food, comfort and an introduction to a social worker, who placed Aguilar in foster care.