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Independence Day

June 4, 2011

He knew it would happen, but not like this. Minutes earlier, he had been in French class. Now he was living the moment that would define his future. It was April 2010. Sergio Velazquez stood in the hallway at Leto High School and faced his stepdad, who was there to pull him out of school just weeks before the end of his junior year. Sergio’s family had moved more than a dozen times — New York to Florida, back to New York, back to Florida, home to home to home. It was like his mother was searching for something, but he didn’t know what.

Now, back to New York? Sergio pictured himself repeating junior year at 19, graduating at 20, if at all.

“Why so sad?” he remembers his stepdad asking. “You knew this was going to happen.”

Obediently, Sergio began to walk, following orders to get his papers signed. Then his throat tightened. His feet stopped.

And he spoke in a way he never had: “I’m not dropping out.”

Sergio walked away.

He turned the corner.

And he ran…

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