Despite Working 50 Hours Per Week, Cherokee Student Preps for Graduation

Canton resident Mateo Andres-Loarca, 20, will be the first in his family to earn a high school diploma.

Credit: Patch file photo
Credit: Patch file photo
For Mateo Andres-Loarca, graduating from high school was never a question of if, but when.

After a few setbacks that required him to temporarily drop out of school, Andres-Loarca now has enough credits to graduate with his classmates at Cherokee High School in May.

Andres-Loarca, 20, said while he is technically done with his studies, he wants to experience the rite of passage of walking across the stage and accepting his high school diploma.

"I’m very excited," he said. "This is something that no one else in my family has ever done."

Andres-Loarca has had to take on the responsibilities of adulthood at a young age. A little over two years ago, the first of his two children were born. S before he was 18, Andres-Loarca said he had to drop out of school for a semester and get a full-time job to care for his new family.

Andres-Loarca, who lives in Canton, said eventually was able to get his life back on track and wanted to return to school. Taking a mixture of online and in-person classes, Andres-Loarca was able to earn the credits needed to earn his diploma. 

He met with and routinely worked with Cherokee County School District graduation coach Judy Withey, who said she laid out her expectation of Andres-Loarca from the start. 

Withey said when she met Andres-Loarca, they started talking right away about his goals and she knew right away he was special "because he had that fire in his eyes that you would see in students who were behind."

"He had no excuses," she added. "He would always say it was important for him to catch up."

Even with taking the classes, Andres-Loarca said he still had to juggle a full-time job to support his family. While taking classes, Andres-Loarca said he'd work the night shift during the week and work the entire day on weekends so he could bring in the money needed for his family. 

It's not unusual for him to work between 50 and 70 hours per week, he added. 

Despite having to juggle two children and a full-time job, Withey said Andres-Loarca remained diligent in doing the necessary work to graduate form high school.

Withey added she sees numerous students who would give up when they are one or two credits shy of graduating, but Andres-Loarca was not one of those students.

"He knew that piece by piece he would be able to get through this," she said, adding  

Andres-Loarca said he's looking forward to the future, which includes for him saving money to eventually attend college to study either computer science or business. His ideal career, he added, would be something in art. 

The Cherokee High School student said he knows many other students who are in similar situations would be tempted to give up. But, with prayer and faith, nothing is impossible to accomplish. 

"I’ve had people tell me...that I won’t be able to do it, but in the end, I’ve proven them wrong," he said. "You have to be dedicated in reaching your goal."

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