Growing up in a country plagued by gang-related violence, Francisco Cortez was eager to reunite with his mother in the United States. Even though he found out his new life in the United States wasn’t perfect, he learned to trust God through it all.

Francisco was born in a small town in El Salvador and raised by his single mother until he was nine years old. At that time, his mother successfully applied for political asylum in the United States, but had to leave her son behind. Francisco then moved to live with his aunt and uncle in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, known for having many dangerous gangs. In eighth grade, he shared that the gangs tried to get him to join. After a few hard months of interactions with the gangs, Francisco’s mother was finally successful in applying to bring him to live with her in Denver.

“I was happy to be here, but I missed my friends and family in El Salvador. Everything was different—the food, the language, the buildings. The thing that stressed me the most was the language. I couldn’t even say a sentence in English. I knew nothing,” Francisco explained.

Growing up, Francisco had many Christian denominations in his family that included Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Adventists. When searching for his faith, Francisco appreciated the views his Grandma had about Adventism. His Grandma would share teachings from the Bible with Francisco, which helped him find his faith. In 2017, while he was attending the North Glenn Hispanic Church, a pastor made an altar call for baptism. Francisco felt the need to finally commit himself to God and raised his hand. Francisco shared, “I was struggling before I was baptized, and I felt like it was time to get back to Jesus.”

Francisco heard about Campion Academy through his church after he moved to Denver. He began attending Campion his freshman year, but despite the positive changes that had happened to him, Francisco soon found his new life at Campion wasn’t without its challenges. When he arrived, he didn’t speak any English, and he struggled with the different educational system. During his first year, his English improved rapidly while primarily taking ELL classes, but he was hit hard by the full academic load his sophomore year.

In the fall of his sophomore year at Campion, Francisco was a starting player for the men’s varsity soccer team. Francisco has always loved soccer, so he was excited to have a starting position. He shared the frustration that when his grades began to slip, he wasn’t allowed to play and missed most of the season. “I did all my homework at first, but I wasn’t used to studying for tests, and I had low grades. After they kicked me out of the team, I got so depressed that my grades started going down more and more.”

Although this was hard for Francisco, it helped him realize he needed to trust God. He shared, “I had bad communication with God my sophomore year. The only time I prayed was to question God. I never said thanks. I just asked, why me? Every time I would question God for what I was going through, things just seemed to never improve. Now I have realized through the Bible that I need to be thankful through the bad times and the good times.”

Francisco appreciates the opportunities there are at Campion to worship God. He says this has been something that has improved his relationship with God. Something else he appreciates is the love he can see through the teachers at Campion. He says that through God and his time at Campion, he has found his purpose in life. Francisco expressed his gratitude by saying, “I am very thankful to be here at Campion.”

“The only thing that keeps me positive is God. That’s a big difference for me from last year. My Bible class this year has helped me a lot through my journal. Now I say thanks for what I have and just ask Him for help,” Francisco concluded.

RMCNews with Megan Michalenko and Jill Harlow