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. His hard work paid off. Velazquez graduated from San Francisco State University last year with a bachelor's degree in biology. He's now applying to medical school. Over coffee at the student center on a recent Monday morning,...
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