If you were to ask me eight years ago where I would be now, I would have never guessed that I would be where I am today. I was born and raised in Richmond, CA and lived there for ten years until I moved to Reno for five years.
My first two years of high school, I attended a highly-regarded Catholic high school in Reno. But during those first two years, not once did I feel like the teachers truly supported me, nor did they ever really instill in me the idea of pursuing a higher educational path after high school.
Once I moved back to Richmond my junior year, I had no knowledge of what my GPA was, what colleges/universities were out there, or the requirements I needed to apply for college. But then I enrolled at Aspire Cal Prep.
The moment I first stepped into Cal Prep, I immediately felt and saw a difference compared to my old high school. The idea of college was on every wall. In every class, for every subject, the teachers were so supportive.
For as long as I can recall, math had always been one of my worst subjects. I never got anything higher than a C in that subject. My math teacher at that time, Mrs. Salazar, changed that my first year at Cal Prep. I can recall feeling motivated by Mrs. Salazar to always try my best and she answered every question that I had. I truly felt that she cared about me and my education and that was enough to motivate me to attain my first A ever in a math class.
During my senior year, Cal Prep really helped me throughout the college application process.
Before I started my junior year – I did not think of college as an option for me. Once I moved to Cal Prep, I started to believe that I could actually attend a four-year university. I started to believe that I was actually going to be the first in my family to attend college.
Due to all the support and aid I got from Cal Prep throughout the process, I was accepted to five universities. I enrolled at UC Santa Cruz, and graduated this past May with a BA in a combined major of Sociology and Latin American Latino Studies.
While at Santa Cruz, I became involved in an organization called Plaza Comunitaria in which I helped individuals prepare for their naturalization exam. Through my volunteer work, I became interested in pursuing a career in education.
I decided that there was no better place to look for programs than Cal Prep.
I went back one day before the end of my senior year in college and they informed me of a program Aspire runs that gives individuals an opportunity to obtain their Masters in Education, as well as their teaching credentials. Individuals are placed in a classroom with an experienced teacher for a year – it’s called the Aspire Teacher Residency program.
I was lucky enough to be accepted into the program and I’ve been placed at my former high school for this school year with one of my favorite former teachers.
I can’t say enough about how great it is to be back at the place that helped me get where I am today.
I am so grateful to be giving back, not only to the Cal Prep community, but also the Richmond community. I want to inspire todays’ student to go on to achieve their goals, and to return and give back to their community.
Written By: Stephanie Alejandre
10th-12th Grade History
Aspire California Preparatory Academy