Middle College High School principal Diana Del Pilar accompanies her students on a field trip to a Houston Community College campus to prepare for the next step after graduation. Del Pilar aims to get all her graduates college-ready.
Chris Roberson, right, enjoys a light moment with senior Dakota Koppenol. As Middle College High School’s registrar, Roberson is the school’s chief problem solver.
As the first bursts of rain from Hurricane Harvey begin falling, Middle College principal Diana Del Pilar tries to bring order to orientation. “The rain is the rain,” she tells students, unaware that 51 inches of precipitation soon will fall on the city, delaying the start of school by two weeks. “There’s no excuses for missing school.”
Before admitting a new student, Principal Diana Del Pilar asks they write her a letter explaining why they deserve another chance.
Taking all his classes online this semester isn’t as fun as Dakota Koppenol thought it would be. Without school or a job, he spends most of his time at home. “It’s so boring,” he says one day, sitting in his bedroom. “Like, I never do anything.”
Josh Zuniga watches his big sister Carmen prepare his lunch, before dropping him off at school. Carmen had amassed a large number of absences the previous year while helping to care for her younger siblings.
Carmen Zuniga laughs with her younger sister, Dani, before taking her to a medical appointment. Earlier that morning, Carmen told her for the first time the story of their dad’s death in Mexico, after being deported.
“I won’t give up on you, Carmen,” Middle College High Principal Diana Del Pilar says during a Sunday lunch with her student, Carmen Zuniga, who is in danger of not graduating after missing too many classes.
Diana Del Pilar prays in the morning before leaving to go to work at Middle College High School.
Principal Diana Del Pilar checks in with one of her students at Middle College High School.
“Thank God for giving us prom. And thank God for … “Carmen Zuniga begins. Her friends all join in to finish the prayer, yelling “GRADUATION!” all at once.
Diana Del Pilar teaches her former student, Carrington Green, how to dance at prom.
Diana Del Pilar rubs her swollen feet at midnight as she waits for two students to be picked up after prom, Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Houston.
Dakota Koppenol struggles to put on his mortarboard before Middle College High School’s graduation ceremony.
Diana Del Pilar hugs Daniel Carbajal after he became the first in his family to graduate high school. Carbajal spent most of 2016 incarcerated for armed robbery, but he made it through that time without a single disciplinary write-up.