ESS 2021: Student uses ‘tunnel vision’ to progress in school and life
September 6, 2021
Matthew Barrera
Grade: 8 School: Sequoia Middle School District: Fontana Unified School District ACSA region: 12 Matthew Barrera’s life was upended at the young age of 11. His mother died, and then he had to move from Idaho to California to live with his aunt and uncle. His relatives gave him advice that helped him take on a new perspective — look to the future, not to the past, and specifically, focus on what you want to achieve.
Since his move, Matthew excelled at Sequoia Middle School, earning a 4.0 GPA and joining the GATE program, Eagle News and the school’s Renaissance Program. The love and support of his aunt, uncle and school community helped him push forward.
You lost your mom when you were 11 years old and as a result, made the move from Idaho to California. How did your extended family help you make the transition and what impact have they had on you?
They’ve had a huge impact on my life. They stepped up and took me in. It was really hard when everything happened, and I was basically just there. They gave me all their love and advice and just told me to look to the future and not look too much to the past.
As you found support from your extended family here in California, what particular advice resonated with you? My uncle always said to have tunnel vision because you can focus on one thing at a time. If you look over way into the future, you’re going to get confused and bombarded. But if you have tunnel vision, you can focus on one thing at a time. A lot of times tunnel vision is good to have to focus and get things done.
You have found incredible academic success at Sequoia Middle School and take particular pride in your involvement in the Renaissance Program. Why is that? The Renaissance Program’s main goal is to make everyone feel comfortable in where they belong and help the overall climate and culture of the school. The reason why I enjoy it is the fact that it’s nice to help people and make them feel comfortable at school. You’re going to spend most of your days at school so it’s nice to see everyone being comfortable and make them feel comfortable.
How did your school community including your teachers and friends help you make the transition to your new environment? A lot of my teachers helped me push forward in life. I can’t just name a few teachers but a lot of students as well. From Idaho to California, it’s very different. But when everyone took me in, it kind of felt the same afterwards.
What was your family’s reaction to you winning the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award? Everyone was really happy. They were all proud and just really happy for me because they saw me go from tragedy to getting this award. And I felt proud for myself because it’s one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. So, I can be proud as well.
What would your advice be to other students who have faced similar tragedies or hardships? My advice would be to have tunnel vision. Don’t dwell too much on the past but also don’t forget it because the past is important. But you should always focus on what’s ahead, take it one thing at a time and just focus with tunnel vision.
Region 12 2021 ESS Matthew Barrera.
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