Back in 2011, as a pupil at New Designs Charter School in West Los Angeles and living with his Mexican parents and brothers in a one-bedroom apartment, Juan Luquin was picked from hundreds of others for a two-year scholarship to Taunton School’s sixth form. The scholarship was funded by the Fulfillment Fund – an LA charity that helps deprived students to achieve a college degree – and Taunton alumni Bob Peirce and Alan Morris, both based in LA. Taunton has also contributed financially. Headmaster John Newton believes this to be the first case of a US charity supporting a student to study in the UK.
“My neighbourhood in LA used to be really bad,” explains Juan. “Throughout my childhood I’ve seen many people die due to gang affiliation, crime and drugs. My parents were really sad and even cried when I left … It was difficult to leave my friends in LA behind, but I knew it was for my good.
“One of my dreams as a child was to travel the world, and one of the places on my list was the UK. It was my first time abroad, my first time on a plane. I’ll never forget the moment I arrived here. I thought I was in a Harry Potter movie – it reminded me so much of Hogwarts!
“It didn’t take me much time to settle in. I feel like I’ve been part of the school from the very first day and will continue to be for the rest of my life.
“Everyone in Taunton School has a passion to learn and experience new things. The education here is more focused on the students as individuals rather than as a whole. Teachers here are more willing to give their free time to help a student with their studies or even outside problems. The curriculum is so much more difficult and intense compared to back home. The class sizes here are much smaller, the homework is more challenging.
“I’ve changed completely as a person, mentally and physically, since I came to the UK, but I don’t forget where I come from – it’s shaped the person I am today. I felt really proud, excited and thankful for receiving a great opportunity like this.
“I was really surprised to be made head boy. I’m the first non-British head boy and I’d only been at the school for a year. I’ve no idea why the headmaster chose me. It might have had something to do with the fact that I became really involved in the school from the start. I took full advantage of all the school’s resources, so I guess that made me quite prominent. Also, I’m really good at public speaking. I’ve had a lot of training, both here and back in the States.
I’ve had so many unforgettable experiences, made so many friends. It has changed my life in so many ways.
“I hope to study engineering in the States. I’ve applied to 17 universities, including most of the top Ivy League ones. It increases my chances of getting scholarships. And I like to aim high.”