The Class of ’17 — a group of students from across North Texas that KERA started following when they were in eighth grade — are now high school juniors. And it’s crunch time — they’re starting to make decisions about what will come after graduation. For Joel Luera, an 11th grader who’s already started college, the decision to get ahead came early.
There’s no question Joel Luera is a standout. He’s ranked No. 4 in his class at W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas. He’s a champion debater. And he takes classes on a college campus.
But this school year hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been different,” he said. “One thing they kind of don’t tell you when you go to, I guess [a school] like here, is you still got to go through all the high school stuff. Like, you know, the quote-unquote ‘discovering yourself’ and all that.”
Joel spends his days at Eastfield College, a community college in Mesquite with 14,000 students. He’s one of more than 200 juniors and seniors there from Samuell’s early college program.
Like many college kids, Joel’s got a heavy schedule. Last semester, he took 20 credit hours. This semester, it’s 18 hours.
Last fall, some personal stuff got in the way.
Joel, who just turned 17, had a girl problem. That kind of derailed him.
“It wasn’t a very good time for me because I had a lot of negativity,” he said. “I don’t get anxious, but I think of things a lot and try to think of all the outcomes and stuff.”
Joel ended up with a D in speech and Cs in algebra and English. He aced U.S. History and Spanish and earned a B in biology.
Like any good debater, Joel has developed critical thinking skills. So he analyzed the problem.
“It was the lack of prioritization,” he said. “Teenagers aren’t very good at prioritizing — at all. I look back on it – there’s these things that I thought were like the end of the world for me, and they weren’t.”