Armando Romero

Armando Romero poses with principal Dennis O’Reilly, left, and board member Mark Roessler at the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy graduation ceremony.

Travis William/ Special to the Explorer

Armando Romero was one of 59 Pusch Ridge Christian Academy graduates to proudly hold up a diploma on May 18, and while the traditional blue gown and gold tassel didn’t distinctly set him apart from his fellow graduates, his story of trial and tribulation does.   

For the majority of his life, Romero’s father has been in prison. It’s a fact Romero continues to live with to this day, as his father remains in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Douglas for gang-related offenses.

While teenagers often follow the path of their parents, Romero has chosen a different course, and continues to use life’s obstacles as stepping-stones toward success.

Originally indifferent to the high school he attended, Romero said his mother and grandmother encouraged him to attend Pusch Ridge to align with what was then his newfound Christian faith. Romero said the decision was life changing.

“I advise everyone to try Christ,” he said. “He’s guided me so much through high school, that I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t tried. I may have even followed the same path my dad took.”

Currently, Romero is participating in a one-month cultural exchange program in Guatemala where he is assisting students in an English class. Upon his return, Romero plans to attend Pima Community College and eventually transfer to a Christian college to study Christian counseling.

“I have a passion for helping people,” said Romero. “Since I’ve grown up without a dad, I can relate to people struggling with issues with their parents, or with depression in general.”

Given his life experiences, Romero said he has also considered becoming a prison chaplain.

 “I want to help people make something of their lives, and try to prevent other kids from being in the same position I’ve been,” he said. “I want to help people in prison, or on the streets, to get away from that lifestyle, and to affect their children’s lives by having that parent there, and not just there, but there as a positive influence.”

In his senior year at Pusch Ridge, Romero’s maturity and leadership skills were on display as he served as one of four chaplains, helping organize school retreats, weekly chapels, and other school events.

When asked what advice he would give to other high school students, Romero had words beyond his years.

“Remember all that you have,” he said. “It’s easy to look at what others have and think you have nothing, but there are always people out there that have it worse. There are people that are living off less than a dollar a day. They are struggling to eat or buy clothes. Just remember to appreciate all you have, and not get down about what you don’t have.”

Jason Clapero, Pusch Ridge student leadership sponsor, watched Romero’s unique character develop over the years.

“He is a young man who does things the right way, who is honest, who is forthright, who built genuine relationships,” said Clapero. “After school, you’d see him sitting on a bench talking to people, and these were life conversations. These were people going to him for advice. The thing that stands out most to me about Armando is his quality of character.”

Recently, Pusch Ridge held a Senior Ridge Run, in which seniors and their fathers team up for a one-mile run.

“As I watched Armando, I was feeling like this must be pretty tough for him,” said Clapero.

Clapero was about to stand up to speak on Romero’s behalf, but Romero beat him to the punch.

“Armando stood up and told everyone how it was a blessing to hear these fathers and sons speak,” said Clapero. “He told everyone about how his dad has been in prison, and how Jesus Christ is his father. That’s the type of person Armando is. He takes a world that is sometimes looked at as dark, and he turns it into light, hope, and promise of the future.”

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