For a group of Hispanic high school students in Sterling, Virginia, there is a special guiding force pushing them to feel confident and proud and to go to college.
The sponsor of the Latin dance team at Dominion High School and this year's National Hispanic teacher of the year, Carlos Parra, is that guiding force.
Once feeling shy and isolated, the students on the Latin Dance Team at Dominion High School have a new found faith in themselves and a feeling of belonging.
“It feels good to do this because I feel like I can represent who I really am,” said Martha Diaz, a junior at the high school.
The students are dancing their way to a better life.
“Thanks to joining this team, I’ve grown confidence, my self-esteem has been better, I’ve been happier and things like this make me enjoy life a little bit more,” said Senior Emerson Retana-Morales.
The man who has lifted up these students and put them on a path to happiness and college is Carlos Parra, the team’s sponsor. He now has the kids performing at other schools and even some colleges.
“When it comes to any type of form of teaching or being a friend or being someone you can go to, he’s actually one of the most influential persons in my life,” Retana-Morales said.
Parra believes so strongly in the students.
“Some of those students are going to make the cure for cancer or something like that, we never know,” Parra said.
But, after three years of making such a difference in these students' lives, Parra might be forced to return to his native Colombia.
“I have to go because my visa,” Parra said.
Parra's visiting teacher visa expires next month.
“Nobody wants to see him leave. It’s going to be like, really hard,” said Martha Diaz, a junior at the high school.
There are efforts underway to find a new visa sponsor for Parra. As he and the students pray for a resolution, they will continue to dance.