Javier is the class clown. He never has a pencil, or notebook paper. His basic black binder is coming apart, and he does not have a back pack. Javier laughs it off, saying he can’t keep up with anything. He borrows what he needs from friends, or the class supply. Most of his teachers don’t mention it, but one teacher fusses at him every day, calling him out in front of his classmates and insisting that he bring a pencil or sit in silent lunch. Javier sits in silent lunch almost daily.

His teachers and friends don’t know that he keeps one mechanical pencil he “borrowed” hidden under a baseboard at his house so he can do his homework. They don’t know that two years ago Javier’s parents fled Honduras with him and his two younger siblings after his older brother was murdered for not agreeing to smuggle drugs for a local drug lord. The sixth-grader remembers the drought that killed the crops his family grew and sold in the market in their small village. He remembers living under bridges and scavenging from the dump in the large cities after famine forced his family and hundreds of others like them to move from the countryside. He remembers the sight of his brother’s lifeless body being dumped under the bridge, and his mother’s grief-stricken cries. He remembers walking for months under the cover of darkness, and crossing a desert to come to America, where his parents assured him the government didn’t support drug lords and kind people would help them build a better life.

Now, he lives in a two-room house with three other families. There is no electricity or water. His parents go to work before sunrise and come home only to sleep for a few hours. He and the older children in the house care for their younger siblings, cooking meager meals and often going without food when there isn’t enough to go around.Javier can’t see well, but he doesn’t realize it. He has never been to a doctor as his parents are afraid their status as undocumented residents would be discovered and reported. Javier and his family will do anything to avoid being sent back to Honduras, for they know that once they cross the border they are as good as dead. Javier studies hard and makes good grades so he is prepared to help the younger children for whom he cares. He loves going to school and makes the most of each day there, because he knows in a few years he must quit school so he can help his parents make a better life for his little brothers.

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