Central Falls dropout returns to challenge students

Andres Idarraga

It's been a string of good news days for Central Falls High School.

First, a senior was accepted to Harvard University, and now another success story.

This one involves a student who attended Central Falls High School from 1992-1993, but dropped out. He ended up graduating from two Ivy League schools, but his path to them wasn't so direct.

Andres Idarraga spent six years behind bars at the ACI on drug charges, but he used his time wisely there.

"I started to read, I took the GED, and at that time I was more mature, so as I'm learning, the learning had a different effect on me. It makes me more self-aware," Idarraga said.

That's the message he delivered to Central Falls High School students Friday.

He asked the students: Are you defining yourself or are you being defined?

From prison, Idarraga went to Community College of Rhode Island and other schools before getting into Brown University. And then he went from Brown to Yale Law School.

Now he's a lawyer, and he runs the Transcending Through Education Foundation, a nonprofit to help other smart students who may just need a break and a mentor to make better decisions.

One student said he was motivated by Idarraga's message.

"Definitely, considering that he's Latin and I'm Latin. We came from the same area, and it motivates me highly to strive to do better," one student said. "My family, none of them went to college. So, I want to be taking that step forward, to strive and be successful."

"I got inspired by how he said you have to define yourself as a person and also he came from the same city I come from, so I felt we connected," another student said.

Idarraga now lives in south Florida.