Two years ago — as a Central High School sophomore — Pedro Da Silva heard an announcement about Open Choice.
“I think I was the only one who listened,” he says, referring to the lottery that brings Bridgeport students to Westport.
Though he was in Central’s magnet school program, Pedro wanted more. “It was a tough environment to learn in,” he explains.
He was accepted. Even before his 1st day as a Staples High School junior, he noticed a difference.
When school began, he noticed a great academic difference. He had to drop a couple of AP and Honors classes. Even so, he struggled to keep up.
“In Contemporary World Issues they were talking about the Ottoman Empire,” Pedro recalls. “I had no idea what that was.”
He wrote down everything that was unfamiliar. At home each night, he researched what he did not know.
The first month was tough. Fortunately, Pedro found his new classmates very friendly. “I thought they might be snobby,” he says. “But everyone was so nice. I noticed the atmosphere immediately. It’s so warm and inviting. Mr. Dodig (the principal) has built such an accepting school.”
Joining Staples Players and Choir helped too. “At Staples you’re not judged for liking the arts,” he says with relief.
Pedro acted in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and last year’s One-Act Festival. Next month, he’s directing a One-Act. In the winter he’s on the swim team. He’s vice president of the St. Jude’s Charity Club.
Now — as he prepares to graduate in June — Pedro wants to do one more thing.
He wants to leave a legacy.
Through a college application Facebook group, he met a boy in Kansas. “He lives in an area like Fairfield County, where some communities are much more affluent than others,” Pedro says. His friend created an inter-district student government. Each school sends 2 representatives. They meet monthly, sharing ideas about connecting their schools while breaking down barriers and social stereotypes.
Pedro would love to do the same thing with Westport, Fairfield and Bridgeport.
“Stereotypes are not real,” he notes. “There are really nice people everywhere.”
“We’re all just teenagers going through the same issues,” Pedro says. “We should be able to advocate together, and learn from each other.”
Pedro has already made a start. He’s brought Central friends here, to see Players shows. Now, he’s talking to Dodig and the Student Assembly to move his idea forward.
Meanwhile, he’s waiting to hear back from colleges. And he’s gearing up for his senior internship, at the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board in Norwalk.
Pedro will leave Staples with many good friends, wonderful memories, and an important lesson.
“No matter who you are, or what your background is, you can excel,” he says. “At Staples, I’ve been able to set my sights high, and learn how to accomplish as much as I can.”