Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

For 29 years, Bob Knoebel was a revered Westport YMCA Water Rats swim coach and aquatics director. The 1971 Staples High School graduate now enjoys a 2nd career in Idaho, as an equally well-respected fishing guide.

Bob is also the godfather of a young man named Enrique. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for 800,000 people — he sent along these thoughts:

If you grew up in Westport, you were accustomed to your mom driving you to soccer or swimming practice, making sure you were at your games or meets on time.

Your parents were at every game. They cheered — or better yet, acted as volunteer coaches or officials.

Bob Knoebel

They also made sure you had everything you needed to succeed in school — the proper supplies, a dedicated place to study — and had regular contact with your teachers.

You took music lessons, dance lessons, swimming lessons or became an Eagle Scout. Your parents were probably college educated, and helped you navigate the college process.

Even if you didn’t realize it, they were looking over your shoulder — just to make sure. Lucky you, lucky me for being fortunate enough to grow up in Westport and graduate from Staples.

Imagine for a moment your parents don’t speak English. They have less than a high school education. You live in a trailer.

At 9 years old you missed a soccer game because you had to act as an interpreter/negotiator for your dad when he bought a goat from a local rancher, or needed you to go to the junkyard to do the same for parts for the family truck.

Your most important role in the family is what you can provide in terms of financial support.

To top it off, your mom doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you lived in fear that ICE might show up at your home to deport your mom or dad. Imagine the relief you would feel if you were offered a level of protection that the Obama-era program known as DACA provided you.

You could do the things your schoolmates take for granted, like get a driver’s license or summer job.

I am the “padrino” (godfather) for Enrique, a DACA-protected 17-year-old who is a high school senior here in Idaho.

He has more grit than you came imagine, because of challenges like these. He has completed 5 AP courses, and is taking 3 more this year. He started a tutoring program at the middle school to help other 1st-generation college  hopefuls, and recruited friends to help.

Enrique is a top student.

Enrique works after school, interning at an engineering firm. He plays saxophone in the band, and belongs to the National Honor Society and Key Club.

Trout Unlimited chose him last summer to attend a national leadership conference in Montana.

Bob Knoebel and Enrique.

He is the first Hispanic player on his high school lacrosse team, and was the top-scoring underclassman last year.

Enrique wants to go to college. Not because he hopes to change the world, but for a more humble reason: to help his family.

He’s counting on a scholarship to a private university, because he does not qualify for in-state tuition at Idaho schools.

He never complains, gets stressed or worries about his future, because he believes in the goodness of America and the promises it offers to those who work hard.

He’s not worried that the Trump administration has announced an end to DACA. He believes that Congress will act with compassion when deciding his fture, and that of 800,000 others.

In a senior class of just over 200, there are 14 other DACA-protected students alone.

It’s a world away from Staples.

But it’s Enrique’s reality. He is making the best of it.

Among many other things, Enrique is a star lacrosse player.

18 responses to “Bob Knoebel’s Dreamer

  1. This is an awesome story and its what is great about America, Westport, and Dan Woogs 06880 blog for sharing. On this one there hopefully should not be a political battle, because Congress will come up with a goood plan. Its the “dreamers” that invented planes, phones, electricity, the internet and all else!!!! We will find a way to do the right thing.

  2. Bob worked so beautifully with the young people of Westport. So nice to see how he is still guiding young people. Enrique is a wonderful example of someone coming to America and living the dream! What potential!

  3. Fantastic story! THIS is how we Make America Great Again! (If it wasnt great already)

  4. I think ‘our cumulative God power’ is taking hold. Let us all continue to stay focussed.
    These are people to be chirished.

  5. Wendy Crowther

    As a former YMCA colleague of Bob’s, and one who has remained in touch with him ever since we worked together at the Y, I can personally vouch for Bob’s invaluable contribution to Enrique’s life and promising future. But this story, deservedly so, is all about Enrique’s efforts and dreams. I hope Enrique and his family have a future in America – they deserve one. And despite the challenges that may be ahead for them, I know that Bob will be there to help them however he can.

  6. Sharon Paulsen

    This should go viral!

    It could help to open up the minds of those who might not fully grasp the implications of what the Dump administration wants to do to these kids/young adults.

    Thanks for this … we need to hear more positive life stories like this.

    • DACA was never more than parole….it didn’t lead to legal status or citizenship. All the “Dump” administration did was put it in Congress’s hands to help them and do it properly…

      Apparently, that’s a bad thing.

  7. I hope that he is correct : ” Congress will act with compassion.”
    ADW Staples 1956

  8. Anne Rutherford

    Having known and admired my dear friend and my children’s mentor, Bob Knoebel, for decades now and having had the privilege of meeting his godson, Enrique, may I say that we should all hope to emulate the dreamers that both these fine men are. Enrique is an inspirational young man and Bob’s heartfelt words only scratch the surface of all that Enrique has surmounted with a faith and integrity well beyond his years.
    For this nation to lose our Enriches would be shameful as they are no different from our Irish or English ancestors who arrived here in need of hope and opportunity. I pray that Enrique’s faith in our Congress to act swiftly and with compassion is well placed. I surely share his dreams and know that, given the opportunity, he will fly.

  9. Rosemary and Steve Halstead

    Steve and I know that a world with more Bob Knoebels in it would be a far better place. Bob has been a positive influence in Enrique’s life for years but Enrique is but one example of his caring and generosity. There are literally a multitude of kids whose lives have been changed because Bob has taken them under his wing. An “unsung hero” to be sure and someone we feel blessed to have as a friend.
    May Congress do the right thing and enable the DACA kids to continue to dream and live their dreams.

  10. Mary Cookman Schmerker '58

    I hope this post goes viral. I’ll post it on my Facebook page. The dreamers have much to contribute and are making a mark that is invaluable. Their stories are inspiring. I hope and pray that our government does the right thing. Turning them away would be heartbreaking and ought to be considered immoral. We need to let our elected officials know that these remarkable people should be embraced with open arms and hearts. To act in any other way is inhumane. There are ways to find petitions to sign in favor of making a way to citizenship for them.

  11. Bill Boyd (Staples 1966)

    Congrats to Bob Knoebel…such a moving story…and being played out all over the country and the world. I didn’t notice if there was a scholarship fund site mentioned but I’m sure there will be very soon. All children deserve a solid chance to succeed and it sounds as though he is well on his way. (Just as an aside…there are millions of kids, some from Westport, who don’t have parents or family support because of a myriad of problems…drug addiction… alcoholism….. unemployment ..) Keep an eye out for kids in your own neighborhood who may need some mentoring. ALL kids deserve a solid chance at success…well done!

  12. Having worked with Bob, he provided leadership and grace. He told me once after a brutal workout…….”Jonesy, it’s not supposed to be easy”. I still use that today. Life long friend.

  13. What a wonderful story. Thank you!
    My heart goes out to all the DACA recipients with the hope that Congress will do the good and right thing and grant them citizenship to live in the U.S. permanently. President Obama knew this day would come, but I think he believed it would one day force Congress’s hand. Our fear is Congress has done so little for nearly a decade and immigration has become a deeply polarizing issue in this country–a country made up of immigrants!

  14. Janette Kinnally

    What an amazing story that needs to be shared throughout the nation. Thanks for sharing this Dan!

  15. I hope everyone who reads this story is inspired by Bob, as I have been for the 30+ years we have been friends. A better citizen you can not find and I know no one more compassionate or understanding or humble. This is what mentoring is all about, changing peoples lives – one family at a time. Enrique has flourished in the 10 years I’ve watched Bob mentor him, but it does take a village and they need your help. If your alma matter has a scholarship program for undocumented scholar/athletes and you have contacts, let Bob know – they completed their first college tour earlier this summer and are still searching.

    DACA probably was never an answer – a path to citizenship is what this country needs. There are plenty of kids in neighboring Norwalk or Bridgeport who need mentoring – your life will be changed as much as theirs.

  16. Love Bob and love this story! I wish both Bob and Enrique all the best.