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Yaskin Solano’s Challenging Journey to Commencement

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It is midday and some 20 members of the Dos Pueblos High School varsity wrestling team are practicing their moves. The room is packed and each wrestler moves at dizzying speeds, working with full force to down his opponent and pin him to the mat. The thumps you hear are bodies hitting the padded walls and floor. In one corner of the packed room is senior Yaskin Solano, repeatedly giving everything he has to best his opponent. A quiet young man with an engaging smile, when he is on the mat Yaskin is laser focused and downing his opponent is a relatively small challenge compared to those he has faced to get to this point in his life.

In grades K-6, Yaskin attended five elementary schools in Goleta, Oxnard, and Santa Maria due his family’s near-annual moves. In grades 7-8 the moves continued and Yaskin attended two junior high schools in Santa Maria.


“It was hard making new friends and getting used to new teachers; which still affects me today. For example, there is a progression from grade-to-grade in math. Changing schools and trying to learn different math programs each year makes it hard,” Yaskin said.

While he won’t go into detail, at the age of 14, Yaskin got into trouble, was arrested, and sent to Los Prietos Boys Camp. According to its website, “The facility provides a local commitment option for delinquent males between the ages of 13 and 18. Los Prietos offers a 120- or a 180-day program. Wards earn their way out of the program based on their participation and behavior.” While at Los Prietos, Yaskin repeatedly found himself in trouble due to fighting and an escape from camp. He ended up serving an 11-month term.

Upon reflection, Los Prietos had a positive impact on the troubled teen. “It was a good experience because they gave you sense of worth. You work and you get jobs there, such as kitchen and landscaping. You can work with the Forestry Service, cleaning burnt brush and making water bars, which are water channels for water run-off.” Yaskin continued, “Sometimes we would hike deep into the mountains and have to carry heavy water containers. It was rewarding because you got to get out of camp and it was a challenge.”

While incarcerated, Yaskin participated in Toastmasters Soldiers, a nonprofit that he credits with helping him learn how to find his voice and convey his thoughts. The experience had a very positive impact and Yaskin has since returned to Los Prietos a few times to help out.

Following his 2009 release from Los Prietos, the Solano family moved to Santa Barbara where Yaskin enrolled in El Puente Community School as a sophomore. El Puente is one of three community schools in Santa Barbara County under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County Education Office Juvenile Court and Community Schools. The three community schools serve four types of students: those who are criminal law violators transitioning back to school from Los Prietos boys camp, juvenile hall; probation-referred status offenders; social service referrals; or district expulsions.

The following year, Yaskin enrolled at San Marcos High School as a junior. He signed up for wrestling and became a member of the varsity team. Academically, he was setting goals and getting As, Bs, and Cs.

Yaskin was back on track. But there was still one more change ahead.

Yaskin’s family moved again. This time he was geographically close to Dos Pueblos High School so his senior year has been spent as a Dos Pueblos Charger. He has maintained As, Bs, and Cs and, during the November-March season, he competed on the varsity wrestling team. Yaskin was in the 170 weight class.

When asked how the series of moves affected his education, Yaskin replied, “I consider myself a pretty resourceful kid so I am dealing with it. I look for help on a subject that I am having trouble with.” He continued, “Dos Pueblos is wonderful and this is one of my best years because it has been so eventful and great: the school, teachers, kids, and sports.” 

Dos Pueblos wrestling coach Anthony Califano summed up Yaskin’s change when he said, “I think what has impressed me about Yaskin the most is his maturity. He made a lot of bad choices that got him in a lot of trouble. When he started making good choices he completely turned his life around. When he wrestles I'm amazed that a kid so new to a sport could have such poise. I would say that he is a very good athlete and is very tough but that doesn't always translate to success on the mat. I think a lot of his success is because he is also incredibly intelligent. I think he didn't realize his intellect or exercise it until he began to make better choices. The conversations I have with him are not about staying out of trouble it's about which college he will attend. There has been a paradigm shift in his life. He is so focused on success that failure is not even part of the equation.”

Yaskin’s accomplishments on the mat were recognized earlier this month when he was one of 12 student-athletes from Dos Pueblos High School honored by Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table (SBART). He was named the school’s SBART Athlete of the Year in wrestling.

So, what’s ahead for Yaskin?

Today, he is serving as the moderator at a UCSB student workshop on how Youth4Change, an organization he is committed to, serves troubled teens. When requested, he also speaks to Rotary groups about Youth4Change and its fundraising needs.

In the fall he is headed to Santa Barbara City College. “I want to go to Santa Barbara City College and eventually transfer to a four-year college. I want to get a degree in kinesiology or nutrition. My dream career is to be a professional fighter in mixed martial arts. Wrestlers are the most successful athletes in mixed martial arts so these wrestling classes are in preparation for that.”

There is every reason to believe that Yaskin Solano will reach his goal.

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Reader Comments (7)

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