A Teacher's Ultimatum Drives Student's Success In high school, Raul Bravo asked himself whether it was worth getting a diploma. Friends were making fast money drug dealing, and four years seemed like a long time. But then his automotive teacher told him he had a decision to make.

A Teacher's Ultimatum Drives Student's Success

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Now, for another conversation from StoryCorps' National Teachers Imitative.


STAMBERG: This school year we're sharing stories from and about teachers and their students. Twenty-one-year-old Raul Bravo is an auto mechanic in Chicago. Back when he was in high school, he never thought about a career working on cars until he met automotive teacher Clairene Terry. At StoryCorps, Raul told Clairene what was going through his mind when they first met.

RAUL BRAVO: At that age, I've seen many of my friends making fast money drug dealing or wanted to rock the best Nikes, you know. And I was asking myself: is it really worth it, getting a diploma? Is it really worth four years?

CLAIRENE TERRY: When I first met you, the counselor told me your history - F student, is not coming to school. These were my words: I'll take a shot at him. And the first 10 weeks, you just sat back and you just watched. And I came up to you and I told you, you have a decision you have to make; you either do what you say were going to do, or you just get off my roster. And you made up your mind. Your grades started to swing up. Your attendance started being consistent. You were there every day.

BRAVO: Yeah. Everything seemed this is where I belong. I felt like a walking star in the hallway. Everybody will notice you, you know. You're one of Terry's students, and you get respect. I felt more confident that if I can do better in this class, let me try in my other classes.

TERRY: I'm glad that you were willing to stick it out. 'Cause I got into teaching with the intent of helping students a lot like yourself who were standing around trying to make up their mind.

BRAVO: When I first walked into your class, I didn't even know how to do an oil change. Did not have a clue.

TERRY: Come a long way since then.

BRAVO: Come a long way. I got a lot of inspiration from you when - right now, I'm taking care of my sister. She's a teenager, so it's a really tough time for her right now. So, I'm trying to help her make the right decisions. If I could just see that she does well, that would just be - tremendous feeling.

TERRY: Yeah, it is. I watched you grow up into a fine, very respectful young man.

BRAVO: I didn't think it could be done. I was just, you know, you're amazing, Ms. Terry.


STAMBERG: That's Clairene Terry and Raul Bravo at StoryCorps in Chicago. Raul is now working full-time and getting his associate's degree in automotive technology. More about StoryCorps' National Teachers Initiative at NPR.org.


STAMBERG: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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