By Esther Landhuis

September 16, 2017

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When he came to the United States 12 years ago, Edgar Velazquez hardly spoke

a word of English. Most days of his first year, the 14-year-old Mexican

immigrant went to the library after school to read the dictionary,

determined to learn 250 words - the minimum for basic conversation.

 

At home, Velazquez often did his homework in the bathroom. It was the

quietest spot in his family's 500 square-foot studio in the Tenderloin, a

San Francisco neighborhood with "needles on the ground and a lot of homeless

on the streets," he recalls.