When David De La Cruz Rosales talks to his students, he gets down on their level.

“I relate to them a lot. It’s very personal,” he said during a recent afternoon in his most advanced class, English Language Development 3, at West Adams Preparatory High School.

  • DACA recipient has returned to his high school as a teacher
  • He lives with uncertainty, but hopes to inspire next generation of dreamers
  • He was inspired to teach by the school's principal, who was his teacher

The young teacher is working toward getting his credential in the heart of Pico/Union, Los Angeles' biggest immigrant community. Most of the residents moved here from Mexico or El Salvador, and the kids in his class came to the United States as teens.

Life is not simple for them. For example, students have missed class for immigration court.

But De La Cruz Rosales understands because he faced the same challenges when his parents brought him across the border without documents at 6-years-old.

He is a “dreamer,” an undocumented immigrant whose status is in limbo. He is allowed to stay and work in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

“It’s difficult,” De La Cruz Rosales said. “Even as I’m working toward (my credential), I do find myself in bed sometimes thinking ‘you have to get up,’ and pumping myself up.”

Magnet Coordinator Michael Oviedo would like to see more teachers like De La Cruz Rosales at West Adams but it’s not easy to recruit them. Even De La Cruz had offers to teach at other schools.

“I feel like it’s really important for students to see someone who looks like them in front of the class,” Oviedo said.

Ovideo speaks from experience. He used to be a teacher. And when he taught De La Cruz Rosales, he planted that little seed that he should be a teacher.

A small compliment, that his former student is now paying forward.

“I think that’s every teacher’s dream: to come back to the high school they graduated from,” De La Cruz Rosales said.

To inspire the next dreamer from the place he calls home.