Opportunity School has so many successful students who got their start here. Research proves that a good start in the early years pays dividends for years to come. Here are just a few of many success stories of individuals who began their education at Opportunity School.
Fun. Bright. Comfortable. Small. Those are just some of the memories that Chanti Westmoreland has about going to Opportunity School in 1994. Chanti recalls looking forward to going to school and sitting at the round tables. She even remembered a time when her teacher, Ms. Pat Mathis, called her on the phone.
“My mom told me my teacher was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. That was pretty indicative of the connection between home and school,” Chanti says. “I remember loving school and having fun … I guess that love of learning really stuck.”
After Opportunity School, Chanti went on to graduate from Tascosa High School and then from Colorado State University. After graduation from CSU, Chanti decided to pay it forward and help children who come from low-income families. She served a two year commitment in Teach for America at inner city schools in San Antonio. She was employed as a second grade teacher at Madison Elementary School and also coached JV volleyball and tennis at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, a local high school. When we last spoke, Chanti planned to enter law school.
Counting bears. Organizing them into lines, by color and in patterns. That’s one of Diamon Hughes’ favorite memories about the two years he spent at Opportunity School.
Diamon (as in diamond) is the kind of young man who feels like a good friend after only five minutes into a conversation. Well-spoken and polite, his responses to questions are punctuated with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.” There is little about this college-educated, former star athlete that would hint that his upbringing was by a single mom who dropped out of school in the eighth grade and struggled with addictions.
Although Diamon did well in school, getting an education was not a top priority. None of Diamon’s friends talked about college. Their focus was only on getting out of school and making money as fast as they could. As a standout high school athlete for Palo Duro High School, Diamon went on to play college football in junior college and then played at Abilene Christian University and Eastern New Mexico University.Diamon graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor's of science degree in Sports and Exercise Science.
Paula graduated from Opportunity School in 1984. Her favorite memories from the school include being chosen to help bake cupcakes and the regular home visits. “I remember a lady coming to the house every Saturday or so to visit me. One time we planted green beans, and another time we made clay,” Paula says. Paula went on to become the valedictorian of Palo Duro High School in 1996. She received the honor of being named a Harrington Scholar
and later graduated from the University of Texas in 2000. But Paula didn’t stop there. She graduated from Southwestern Medical School in Dallas in 2004, got married, and specializes in Diagnostic Radiology.
Marlin also was Opportunity School Class of 1984, earned a Bachelors degree in Jazz Studies with a Performance Emphasis in May of 2006, from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He’s earning widespread recognition in the jazz music field. A three-time recipient of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, Marlin heads the Marlin McKay Trio, performing regularly in the Wisconsin area. His first CD, entitled, “Deep in the Cosmos”, featuring top artists and original compositions, was recently released. He and his wife Tamika, who teaches at an early childhood center, have a daughter, Maelyn. Marlin also enjoys writing children’s books. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in guidance counseling,
This Opportunity School Class of 1981 alum joined the “Three Mo’ Tenors” opera company in 2004, shortly after graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied opera on a full-tuition merit scholarship. Ramone has said, “I remember being challenged in Mrs. Mathis’ class. As a child I liked to stay really busy, and Mrs. Mathis helped me stay on task and challenged me.” As a performer, Ramone now tours with the “Tenors” year-round, spends “down time” in New York City, and accepts other performing engagements when time permits.
“When I enrolled Ramone in Opportunity School, I was a student and needed the fee adjustment that Opportunity School offered. After I graduated and was working, I kept Ramone at Opportunity School. I believe that self-confidence is established early in life. I’ve never doubted that my son’s education at Opportunity School helped give him a confident approach to school and life. I wouldn’t trade it!” said Gladys Diggs, Ramone's mom.
Opportunity School is honored to have the chance to encourage students like Chanti, Diamon, Paula, Marlin, and Ramone who have made the most of their “Good Beginnings”.
Are you a former Opportunity School student? We want to keep in touch with you! Please contact us
Opportunity School is working with the Education Department at West Texas A&M University to complete a study about former students. We are excited to add more success stories to our page about their accomplishments. Contact us if you can put us in touch with former Opportunity School students.