It’s so easy to become disheartened by the ugly noise of the times. But amid the petty political wrangling, the savage acts of violence and the lame excuses for wrong-doing, the stories of three remarkable young men have brought to the limelight an indispensable dash of hope.
In Hallandale Beach, 21-year-old lifeguard Tomás López put a man’s life before his job and rushed to help rescue a tourist struggling in the surf in an unguarded area of the beach.
He was fired for leaving his post, although he had alerted a supervisor who covered for him. But he’s been recognized and rewarded.
In Miami, against all odds, Ronald Page, 20, graduated from the City of Miami Police Academy.
Where others might have been discouraged by any one of the obstacles Page faced — growing up without a father, having a disabled mother, suffering a car accident that shattered his leg and forced him to learn how to walk again — Page persevered, his dark days fueled by the desire to honor an older brother, a mentor, whose life was cut short by a robber’s bullet.
And at Miami-Dade College, Julio Calderón, a 23-year-old civil engineering major, continued his activism on behalf of Dreamers — undocumented students who consider themselves American and are hoping to gain legal status one day.
This despite the news that the Honduran native missed qualifying for President Obama’s executive order for temporary relief by less than two months.
At Miami Senior High, Calderón was so shy, “I never even said my name,” but he was certain of one thing.
“I had to do well in school because I was undocumented,” he told me. “School was really hard, learning the language was hard, but I loved math and I knew I had to go to college.”
At Miami Dade College, he found his purpose when he attended a meeting of students like himself, whose parents had left everything behind and risked their lives crossing the border to give their children a better chance at a future. Calderón became involved with the organization Students Working for Equal Rights, learned about leadership and making a difference.
Although he’s a graduate of a Florida high school, he pays out-of state tuition, but Miami Dade College helped him get a private scholarship.
“I’m really, really thankful,” Calderón said to me. “Miami Dade College believes that opportunity changes everything and it’s true. I’ve had the privilege to be here and to take that opportunity.”
For his bravery, Tomás López got a key to the city and was hailed as a hero. Next, he’ll focus on his studies at Broward College.
Ronald Page, who is looking for a job as a police officer, still hopes that someone will call in the tip that will help police identify his brother’s killer.
And Julio Calderón is working as hard as he can to persuade U.S. authorities to use their discretionary powers to defer action on his deportation.
All three young men have reason to look at the future with optimism, and we, as a community, should do our part to help them tackle the next set of obstacles and fulfill their dreams. For the inspiration they bring to unsettled times, we thank them.