Where others see hopeless cases, JuanCarlos Arauz, EdD ’07, sees possibility. That’s why his San Rafael-based non-profit, Educational Excellence and Equity (E3), focuses on students at the bottom of the at-risk pool, the ones least likely to graduate.
“I focus on the most at-risk simply because no one else will, simply because they are what most educators, economists, politicians, and citizens say hold us back,” said Arauz, whose work with E3 earned him a Bay Area Jefferson Award, a national recognition system honoring community and public service. “I want to say that the most at-risk students are simply portraying the life of our lowest expectations and I want to change that. I enjoy seeing the proof each day that their lives can and do change.”
Through the after-school program, Arauz works in Bay Area schools, teaching more than 100 middle school students what he terms 21st century skills: critical analysis, adaptability, teamwork, cross-cultural communication, and innovation. Arauz leads activities such as digital storytelling that not only engage students, but also teach them important reading and writing skills.
He also takes students on two distinct field trips designed to demonstrate the impact youthful decisions can have. In one trip, students visit San Quentin State Prison to talk with inmates about the choices they made in middle school and high school. Another trip takes students to corporate America to meet with successful people of color and ask them the same thing.
To reach beyond the students he works with directly, Arauz also trains teachers throughout the Bay Area on how to effectively engage at-risk students.
For Arauz, who immigrated to the United States from Brazil as a child, the work is personal.
“I have no option but to fight for educational equity,” Arauz said. “The work I do is because I do not have a choice. Every day I am reminded of the low expectations others have of me—I see the many poor black and brown youth of the world that look like me, come from where I come from. If I am to succeed, I don’t want it to be because of the obstacles of oppression, but because of the rise of my brothers’ and sisters’ accomplishments.”