Following a morning workout during the off-season program this past week, San Francisco 49ers guard, Chilo Rachal, took time to speak to at-risk high school students in Santa Clara. During their lunch break, Rachal visited approximately 40 9th – 12th grade students at the New Valley Continuation High School in the Santa Clara Unified School District to inspire them to stay on track in school and motivate them to further their education.
Rachal, a native of Compton, California, relates all too well to these troubled youth where a majority enrolled at New Valley are behind in earning their required graduation credits, have been expelled from either Wilcox High School or Santa Clara High School, and a percentage of them are even battling staying out of trouble with the law, with approximately 10% currently on probation.
"Growing up, me being a kid, I didn't have a good childhood, so I want to be able to give kids something I didn't have," said Rachal. "I want to tell them it's not too late to make some changes to themselves and anybody can do anything if they put their mind to it."
Rachal spent roughly 15 minutes telling his life story of growing up in Compton, not having good grades, being dangerously close to not graduating high school and flirting with living the gang life. He told the youth that he eventually came to his senses and realized he had to make a change. He wanted better for himself and his family and made his life right by focusing on his education and staying out of trouble.
"By me applying myself in high school, I had an opportunity to get a scholarship to USC and an opportunity to play and travel all over the U.S. and look, I'm in the NFL," said Rachal. "Just from hard work. Hard work does really pay off. A lot of people don't take it serious but when you really take it serious and take a step back and apply yourself, you can get a long way in life."
Once Rachal made the change, he found himself graduating from Dominguez High School in Compton with a full football scholarship to the University of Southern California. During his junior year, he decided to enter the 2008 National Football League draft where he was drafted in the second round (39th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers.
Rachal's decision to leave school early was not to escape the education aspect of school but to help his family financially. At the time, his mother was extremely ill with a stomach tumor, was on the path to death and was in dire need of medical attention. Rachal saw the draft as the answer.
"I had an opportunity to come back to school another year, my senior season, but I declared early to the draft because of my mom. My mom had two tumors in her stomach the size of a four month old child and she was on the path of dying and had no money. My family was not financially stable and my mom needed medical attention."
Currently, entering his second year with the 49ers, Rachal understands the importance of a college degree and success after football and plans on finishing his degree now that his rookie year is under his belt.
Rachal expressed this to the youth as well and further encouraged them to work hard in high school and try their best to get their high school diploma and college degree as well.
The students at New Valley are in need of role models like Rachal who can relate to them and help them understand that they too can make it in the world and know it's not too late to change.
When asked what resonated with senior Devaughn Williams from New Valley he remembered Chilo saying you only have one chance to be in high school. Williams said, "Chilo said you only can go to high school once. There were times when I just wanted to get out and give up but I'm not, now I'm going to go to college."
Speaking to youth about his life's journey is important to Rachal and this is one of many stops Rachal will make during his career to influence youth to achieve more in life.