2018. The year that would change Gabriel Villarreal’s life forever; the year that would change his family’s life forever.
In July of 2018, Gabriel was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Having this explained to you is one thing – having to explain this to your young children is an entirely different story. However, the love Gabriel and his family have for each other was undeniable. He knew this would be an obstacle, but an obstacle they would face together.
Before Gabriel was informed of his diagnosis, he worked in advertising while his wife worked as an office manager. When Gabriel was diagnosed, he was forced to file for disability to focus on his treatments and overall health. He received chemotherapy along with15 hours of surgery to remove the tumor and his right eye. The next step was to wait for the results of his test, and unfortunately, during that time, the family had to rely on one income instead of two. While they were forced to make some sacrifices, one sacrifice they didn’t have to make was their children’s education.
Gabriel and his wife wanted their three children to be in an academic setting that would be more challenging and disciplined than the one they were in currently. Gabriel’s eldest children, Andrea and Adriana, attended both public and private schools. Gabriel’s daughter, Andrea, was attending a public middle school and was experiencing a difficult time adapting due to bullying and other social issues. Even though he was aware this could happen at either a public or private school, Gabriel didn’t want to take the risk of keeping her at her current school and the issues progressing.
As much as Gabriel didn’t want his disability to affect his family’s financial standing, he didn’t have much of a choice. Medical bills continued to pile up, and he was desperate for a miracle. As Gabriel began exploring his options and weighing all of the pros and cons, he discovered the AAA Scholarship Foundation and was thrilled to find they provided scholarships to economically disadvantaged families in Florida. Gabriel applied on behalf of his family and anxiously waited for a response. Miracles come in all shapes and sizes, and that day Gabriel’s miracle was sealed in an envelope congratulating him and his family on their scholarship acceptance.
In the search for the right school, Gabriel’s main priority was for his children to be in an academic environment that was not only challenging but also reinforced their family’s values. Thankfully, he found that at Saint Brendan High School. Saint Brendan’s sole focus is to provide all of its students with a safe and diverse environment that also includes academic excellence, mutual respect, and the holistic development of the individual. Gabriel felt confident picking Saint Brendan. It had everything he thought his children would need to succeed.
As Gabriel continues to fight his battle day by day, he truly feels like the proudest father to be able to watch his daughters and son attend their parent-selected schools and, most importantly, thoroughly enjoying learning. Today, Andrea and her sister Adriana attend Saint Brendan, while their brother Alejandro is able to attend Belen Jesuit Prep, an all-male prep school. Andrea has raised her grades tremendously since transferring to Saint Brendan, and Adriana and Alejandro have consistently maintained A’s & B’s. They all enjoy different subjects – Andrea loves mathematics, Adriana loves science, and Alejandro loves history. They’re each fluent in Spanish and English, and in their spare time, they participate in tennis, cheerleading, gymnastics, and music. “Without the AAA Scholarship Foundation, it would be impossible to have my children attend these schools, especially more now than ever due to my illness,” says Gabriel Villarreal.