Max Baragon, a former Blair ESOL student who graduated from Blair in 1989, recently come to Blair to talk to Silver International staff.
Baragon arrived in the United States from Bolivia in 1987 with the goal of going to college. He entered Blair as 11th grader and began to learn English in a high beginning ESOL class but moved quickly to advanced ESOL class.
After high school, Baragon joined the Navy because he thought that college would be too expensive for him. "I heard about the program that would pay for my college. Since I like to learn about airplanes and helicopters, I decided to join the Navy," he said.
Baragon was in the Navy for 3 years; one of the great experiences he had there was fighting in the Gulf War. It was scary for him at first because he didn't expect to fight in the war when he decided to join the Navy. "I didn't want to fight a war. That wasn't in my plans. Thank God it wasn't a big war," he said.
"In the Navy, when we went outside we had to cover up our bodies with boots, gas mask, and heavy clothes. Once I forgot my gas mask. I was so scared because I didn't know what to do. But finally everything turned out all right. I learned a lesson about being prepared," he said.
Because of these experiences, Baragon learned more about his own abilities and his career interested. "The good thing that I learned is I wanted to be a mechanical engineer," he said. Moreover, being in the Navy helped improve Baragon's English a lot. "We only spoke English in the Navy, and I feel very confident in my English now."
After he got out of the Navy, Baragon was accepted at University of Maryland at College Park as a transfer student because he has taken college courses during the time he was in the Navy. He is now a senior and will receive a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering this year.
Baragon is also the President of Society of Hispanic Engineers at the University of Maryland. He is really concerned about the low number of Hispanic students in college. "We are working very hard to encourage more Hispanic students to go to college," he said.
When one of Silver International staff members said that college here was too expensive, Baragon compared the differences in going to college in this country with Bolivia, his native country. "We all have obstacles," he said. "In Bolivia, going to college is free, but not everyone can go. They only choose the top 5% of the students, so if you want to go to college you have to pass five very difficult exams. On the other hand, in this country, everyone can go to college. The colleges are expensive. However, there are a lot of sources for us to get grants and loans."
Baragon gave some advice for high school seniors, "From my experiences, it is very important to develop your skills and that means definitely going to college for a higher education," he said.
Baragon recalled the time when he was in ESOL level 2 with Mrs. Diamant at Blair. "Once I got a D in class. Mrs. Diamant called me up and told me, "You are not going to accomplish anything if you don't put more effort into it," he said. "I never realized that I could got good grades. After she told me that, my grades really improved."
"College is important! Go for it! Shoot for the stars! I know we all have talents and if we put our hearts on something, we will accomplish anything," Baragon said confidently.
Copyright © 1998, Silver International, Montgomery Blair H.S., Silver Spring, MD USA