SOW: Jose Betancourt September 22, 2008

Move to U.S. a catalyst for Central senior

The odds were not in Jose Betancourt’s favor.

Betancourt, now a senior at Central High School, did not speak a word of English when he and his family moved to Florida when he was 11 years old.

“It was kinda hard,” Betancourt said. “We were leaving Venezuela. It got bad because of the president.”

Betancourt’s mother, Maria Martinez, said she was one of 23,000 state workers fired for not supporting
President Hugo Chavez’s efforts to nationalize Venezuela’s oil companies, so the family fled to the United States six years ago.

They had planned to return to Venezuela, Martinez said, but Chavez was attempting to pass a law that would prohibit parents from removing their children from the country without governmental permission, so they chose to stay in Florida.

Betancourt and his family were cut off from friends and family and denied all the family savings held in Venezuelan banks, however, because of the immigration.

The family spent about three years in Florida, where he developed a fascination with the ocean, Betancourt said, before moving to Colorado.

But because of that experience, three things are instantly clear about Betancourt.

He has an extraordinary work ethic, strong familial bonds are important to him and he is destined for great things.

“Family is very important to me,” Betancourt said. “I have a big family, and when we’re all together, I just really enjoy it. I like to wake up with all of us together.”

So it’s not surprising that Betancourt wants to be starting a family soon after finishing college.

“I’m not going to be losing any time,” he said.

It’s also not surprising that his parents helped to pay for Betancourt’s new car or that his father flew to Dallas, which is where the vehicle was purchased, to drive the car back for him.

Betancourt has worked at Wendy’s for a little more than a year and has saved every penny toward his car, he said, so it’s only natural he baby it a bit and keep it clean.

But it’s hard to imagine how Betancourt finds time for school when he works almost 40 hours a week to cover gas and insurance costs.

That proves his responsibility, said Betancourt’s math teacher, Natisha Littlejohn, because Betancourt has maintained high grades and is a member of the National Honor Society.

“Jose has been a very enjoyable student for me to have in my math classes these past two years,” Littlejohn said. “His personal desire to learn is unmatched by most students his age.”

Betancourt said he isn’t quite sure where he’d like to attend college, but math is a favorite subject, and he is toying with majoring in engineering at the University of Colorado.

“I’m really good at math,” Betancourt said. “It’s kind of sad to be a senior though. I like Central, and I’m not sure where I’ll be going next.”

GPA: 3.87

Parents: Jose Betancourt and Maria Martinez

Preferred college: University of Colorado

Where he sees himself in 5 years: starting a family of his own

Favorite music: Lil’ Wayne

Favorite TV show: That ’70s Show

His hero: His dad

Why: He has taught him almost everything

I’m most proud of: my family


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