Students Rising AboveBy Christin Ayers

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Like many children whose parents have split up, one South Bay scholar has struggled with his family’s changed structure, but he decided early he would be a support for others in the same situation.

Recently it was Multicultural Day at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, an event high school senior Edgar Alvarez has looked forward to all year. He and others gathered in the school’s main courtyard area to sample cuisines from different countries, and enjoy performances by classmates that included drum lines, a flag ceremony, and a traditional Mexican sword dance.

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“It’s very important,” explained Alvarez. “I’m very proud of being Latino and Mexican myself so knowing that we can all share together like this, a nice part of our culture with Bellarmine is good.”

The celebration includes the school’s Latino Student Union, a club that’s a safe space for Alvarez. The teen was born to hard-working immigrant parents who split up when he was just a boy, a change in his family’s structure that was tough for Alvarez to accept.

“I mean, just generally, like, you know, there was lots of love and unfortunately they fell out of love,” recalled Alvarez. “And my dad decided to part from the family. So he was kind of doing his own thing and my mom stayed to raise the rest of us.”

With his dad no longer in the picture, his mom was forced to work several jobs to support the family. Alvarez says he and his four siblings learned early on the value of self-reliance.

“So things were a little bit tough,” said Alvarez. “But we all got through it and sure we all have our own different emotional scars but it’s what makes us.”

Bellarmine Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Carlos Jimenez, a longtime family friend, says Alvarez was very shy when he arrived on campus – a situation both Jimenez and Alvarez attribute to the family break-up. But Alvarez did eventually come out of his shell. Now, he tries out for school plays and enjoys his classes.

“He realizes the struggles that he has had,” said Jimenez.” And values throughout his life that he has had certain people that have helped him, and now it is SRA.”

Alvarez is grateful for Students Rising Above.

“Students Rising Above has probably been one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” said Alvarez. “Just the community with the advisors and the students is just like a family.”

Alvarez plans on becoming a therapist so he can help others. And he has these words of advice for anyone experiencing the break-up of a family

“Just that it’s not your fault,” advised Alvarez. “Never think it’s your fault. And just try to communicate if that is what you really want.”