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Saugus' Charles Dulac: A message of acceptance

Posted: June 9, 2013 8:50 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2013 8:50 p.m.

Saugus senior soccer player Charles Dulac wasn't one to publicize his ethnic background. But after listening to teammates express distaste toward his Hispanic culture, Dulac decided to spread a message of acceptance and tolerance among his peers.

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories in which The Signal recognizes high school athletes whose greatest achievements go well beyond the playing field.

 

Saugus High School asked all of its top scholar athletes to write an essay explaining what they thought high school sports are all about.

For Charles Dulac, it was about much more than his love of soccer.

“I have been blessed to see the world through two pairs of eyes,” Dulac wrote in his essay “Two identities each providing me a unique window to this complex world we live in.”

Dulac is half Guatemalan on his mom’s side and half French Canadian-American on his dad’s side.

In truth, his ethnic background was never something he went out of his way to publicize before high school.

But through soccer, he’s been able to explore and solidify his identity as both a Latino and a Caucasian American.

“That was one experience that he’s had that he wanted to write about,” says Dulac’s mother, Maria. “But I think to his character, for me as a parent, watching him in school and watching him in these functions, it’s great just seeing how many groups he’s comfortable with and how comfortable they are with him.”

Though Charles has played soccer most of his life, it wasn’t until he started playing at the club level in junior high when he started to hear some comments.

“I don’t look like a typical Hispanic,” Charles says. “I’m very light skinned. So I would be playing with certain kids from the (San Fernando) Valley and they would use words to express distaste toward certain cultures.”

He’d hear kids making fun of other players for speaking Spanish on the field. When tempers would flare during a game, the stereotypes would come out about Hispanics being lazy and poor.

At first, Charles bit his lip and didn’t say anything.

But it began to bother him.

What he saw in his mother and grandfather, who were both born in Guatemala, didn’t seem to fit a lot of the stereotypes.

If Hispanics are lazy, he thought, how does that explain how his grandfather, Carlos Jerez, moved his five children to the United States in the late 1970s and worked to raise the family by himself?

“It was something I had to struggle with,” Charles says. “I had these two very different visions of what I thought Hispanic cultures were, which I had to reconcile. And the more honest version was what I had seen in my own life.”

Charles was brought up the same way his mother was when she came to the U.S. at age 11.

They were both taught to be aware and be proud of their culture.

“We take pride in who we are. My dad’s goal was that all his children assimilated well into the American culture, but that we never lost our identity,” says Maria, who is one of Jerez’s five children.

Charles and his grandfather shared an interest in history and politics. The two of them had spirited discussions about America’s relationship with Guatemala.

Jerez was very patriotic, Maria says, and he was always grateful for the opportunity provided to him by the U.S.

He died last July, but his message and his impact continues to play a significant role in Charles’ life.

It was a big reason why Charles finally decided to stop pretending like those comments on the soccer field didn’t bother him.

They did.

Usually, it was just a simple conversation Charles would start with a group of players in trying to educate them about racial prejudices.

It was never done in a patronising tone, especially since Charles himself admitted he used to believe many of the stereotypes he was now trying to preach against.

Due to his appearance, he says he’d often surprise people when he revealed he was half Hispanic

“I’m sure I made maybe some people uncomfortable in my time,” Charles says. “But for the most part, I knew these people. I was friends with these people. It’s not like they said anything evil or mean spirited.”

It was around ninth grade when Charles started having these talks, and he continued them all through high school.

“He’s just kind of one of those kids that everyone is drawn to. He is very personable and very well spoken in dealing with people,” says Saugus soccer head coach Seth Groller. “Kids like him and adults like him, which is nice to see. Some kids don’t have that on and off switch.”

Charles played three years for Saugus’ varsity team after being called up from junior varsity early in his sophomore season.

“He always had a positive attitude,” says former teammate Brian Perez. “He was easy to talk with and he always had something good to say about everyone.”

He played sweeper and was one of the best defensive players on the team through his years, Groller said.

“We called him up his sophomore year for varsity and I’ll never forget the game,” Groller says. “It was against Valencia and he was just a wall back there.”

Charles was also able to spread his knowledge and positivity into other areas, for instance, volunteering his time with Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides and at his church.

His GPA was listed at 4.71 on the school’s scholar athlete list.

This spring, Charles was accepted at Stanford University, which fulfills a long-held goal of his to attend an academically prestigious college.

“I’m saddened that my dad isn’t around because it’s such a rush,” Maria says of her son going to Stanford. “Because for us coming from the beginning where we came, and how much we struggled, and how much we sacrificed, for him to make it into a prestigious school, (Jerez) would have loved to see that.”

As one of Saugus’ top academic performers, Dulac was given the chance to speak at his graduation.

In front of thousands at May 23 at College of the Canyons, Dulac delivered his speech, saying that up until this point of most kids’ lives, most of their decisions have been made for them.

But now, he continued, all these graduates have earned the right to make their own choices and take responsibility for themselves.

It was a speech Saugus principal Bill Bolde called “one of the best graduation speeches I have ever heard.”

In many ways, it exemplifies how Dulac carried himself throughout high school.

He taught himself and others how to take responsibility for what they do and the words they say.

 

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