Jason Cruz calls his life-changing transformation his ‘turnaround.’ After years of poor school attendance and behavior issues, Jason dropped out of high school after his sophomore year. But his story didn’t end there. Jason worked hard, changed his outlook on life and on May 20, he will graduate from Duncanville’s PACE High School.
“I feel good – a lot better than what I was doing before,” Jason said.
Those who know Jason are convinced this story could have had a completely different ending.
Jason says he began smoking pot in fifth grade. School was not important to him, and his grades and attendance record showed it. Jason’s only reason for coming to school was to play soccer, but his poor choices forced Duncanville High School varsity soccer coach Nuno Passos to cut Jason from the team.
“He was one of the most self-destructive kids I’ve ever coached,” Coach Passos said.
Jason’s choices also created trouble at home. His parents kicked him out, and he spent what would have been his junior year of high school working construction full time.
Just before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, Jason began his turnaround.
“I was getting tired of getting into trouble,” Jason said. “I decided little by little that I needed to change.”
First, Jason repaired his relationship with his family. His parents allowed him to move home.
Jason came to PACE High School and asked Principal Tijuana Hudson to allow him a second chance to get his diploma. Looking at his previous record, Ms. Hudson wasn’t convinced at first, but she relented and allowed Jason to enroll at PACE.
Jason also wanted to try out for the soccer team, but Coach Passos was unconvinced Jason’s turnaround would stick.
“He had fallen so far off. He had so little structure in his life I would have bet my mortgage against it,” Coach Passos said.
A year had passed since Coach Passos and Jason had seen each other. In just a couple of months at PACE, Jason completed five credits. His coach was impressed.
“As soon as I visited with him I just couldn’t believe the transformation,” Coach Passos said.
Coach Passos allowed Jason to try out for the soccer team in December. It took Jason a couple of months to get back up to speed, but they had a successful season with him playing at midfield. The team won the Bi-District Championship and lost to Flower Mound – the team that eventually took the 6A State Championship.
“During the back half of the season, he was one of the kids we could count on in a competitive situation,” Coach Passos said.
Jason also put his heart into his schoolwork, completing two years’ of high school credit in less than a year. He also applied to Cedar Valley College.
“It was him. The maturity kicked in, and he put the action behind what he was saying,” Coach Passos said.
Jason knows his success story would not have been possible without his teachers.
“I’m glad they gave me a second chance and I took it,” Jason said. “I’m very thankful to both of them.”