December 2017 Staff Spotlight: Maria Paz Riquelme

By: College and Career Readiness Team

 

Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as Alumni to share their experiences with education and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.

For this month’s Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Maria Paz Gatica Riquelme, Bilingual Instructional Coach

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Q: What is your name?

A:  Maria Paz Gatica Riquelme

Q: Where are you from?

A: Santiago,Chile

Q. Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program? If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them?

A: I don’t want to say it was easy, I was very lucky.  I went to the same school since first grade until high school and had the same group of friends. I had a lot of support from my family. My parents encouraged me to try my best. I was a regular student, I had a great time with friends and family.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?

A:  It was never an option for me just to work, my parents wouldn't accept that, they encouraged us (my twin sister and I) to obtain a diploma and become a professional. In Chile it was important that you became a professional. The opportunities were limited. I worked very hard to get into college and receive financial support.

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Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education?

A: I was not, my mom studied to be a teacher but never worked as one. My mom got married very young and had my twin and I. I have many teachers in my family, my aunts and uncles who are teachers. Having come from such a background I wouldn’t say that influenced me to be a teacher, I just liked it.

Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education?

A:  I studied at a Catholic University in Chile and later continued my graduate studies at UPenn

Q: What did you study?

A:  I studied to be a preschool teacher

Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?

A: 50% was my parents and the other 50% was in loans. When I pursued my master’s degree in education I was granted a scholarship from the Chilean government to study at UPenn. I was very grateful and extremely lucky.

Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?

A: One of my biggest challenges while attending school was trying to decide what I wanted to do in the future. I liked what I studied but I always knew I liked developing and designing curriculums since college. The challenge was how to pursue that goal being so young and without having the experience that field requires.

Q. How did you go about pursuing your goal?

I have been here for 6 years. So after college I worked in public education in Chile for about 6-7 years and after that I worked in administrative education doing curriculum. So at that time I thought I finally found my path to my goal. I worked for 6 years and I got a scholarship to get my master’s degree to study here in the United States from the Chilean government that is how I came here.

Q. After that did you come to Next Step?

A. After I worked as an ESL teacher in Philadelphia at a University for 4 years. Later we moved for family reasons. I believe right after I received a message on LinkedIn from Next Step wanting to interview me and the rest is history. Next Step found me, I have always felt with my past jobs that in those positions is where I needed to be and I feel the same now.

Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education?

A: My parents motivated me they encouraged us to pursue our dreams and work hard for what we wanted.

Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?

A: I decided to work in the education field for the reason that everything has a purpose. I didn’t believe I had a deep profound reason behind why I choose the education field. I feel very passionate about education and I feel like the people I work with feel the same. I feel like the people I work with and I all connect in that way. I believe in what we do here and what we have here.

Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS?

A:  I am the Bilingual Instructional Coach. We work closely with teachers as well as provide them support.

Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?

A: I would say try to find something you feel passionate about, something that moves you, makes you feel happy, something maybe you will do the rest of your life. If you don’t get it right the first time, that’s alright. When you are young we tend to worry about our small mistakes but life continues and everything will be find at the end.

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?

A: It maybe sounds easy for many people, the fact that I came here to the United States with a student visa to pursue my masters makes me feel proud, lucky, and very blessed. If I was never granted a scholarship I would have never been able to study in the United States without the support I received.

Q: What motivates you?

A: Oscar always asks me this question. What motivates me today is the students, I even get emotional about talking about them. We have young parents working hard and every morning leaving their children at the daycare. It’s an amazing feeling that they trust us with their children. You can just see how proud the children are of their parents. It’s a great service we provide and I believe without that help many students wouldn't be at our school.

November 2017 Alum Spotlight: Dany Martinez

By: College and Career Readiness Team

 

Welcome to The Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Alumni or staff to share their experiences with education (both good and bad!) and how these moments have guided them to success.

 

For this month’s Next Step Alum Spotlight, we interviewed Dany Martinez, who graduated from The Next Step in 2015

 

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Q. Where were you born?

A. Born and raised in DC

Q. How did you hear about The Next Step PCS?

A. Through my sister. She told me, “there is this school in Columbia Heights and you should look and see what they offer.” I decided to do a little more research and go see the school.

Q. What attracted you to The Next Step PCS

A. I am not sure. I just wanted to pursue getting a GED. I found out that The Next Step offered a GED program so, that is what most attracted me there.

 Q. How was your experience?

A. It was good. The teachers were super helpful. My counselor was supportive and always checking up on me. Back then, then I was like, “why is she doing that?” and now I am like “yeah.”

 Q. What was your counselors’ name?

A. Lita

Q. In what language did you pass the GED?

A. English

Q. Is English your primary language? If no, what is your primary language?

A. Spanish, since I started speaking it at home.

Q. Did you take ESL courses? If so, where and for how long did you take ESL courses?

A. No

Q. How long did it take you to pass the GED?

A. It wasn’t very long. I was still under age, I had to wait until I was 17 years old to finally take the GED. It did not take that long. Probably a year or a little over a year.

Q. What was your motivation to pass the GED?

A. I needed to have some kind of diploma under my belt. My family motivated me to pass the GED.

Q. Did you ever feel frustrated during your time at The Next Step PCS?

A. I don’t think I was ever frustrated. To be fair, it has almost been 3 years now. I guess the only thing was that they when I wanted to apply, they recommended me to go back to high school. I knew if I would have gone back to high school, it would have taken me a longer time to graduate because of my credits. I got a little frustrated around that time. I kept pushing and eventually I enrolled at The Next Step. The other frustrating thing was that I wanted to graduate quickly. I could not take the GED because of my age so I had to wait a little bit longer. I was not frustrated with the classes or anything else.

Q. Who or what helped you pass the GED?

A. The teachers. Definitely the teachers. Everything they taught in their classes were on the GED test. And again, my counselor.

Q. Did you receive any scholarships?

A. No, because I did not apply. I did receive the Next Step Scholarship, which reminds me, I have to use it!

Q. What advice would you give to current students at The Next Step PCS who are trying to obtain the GED?

A.  Just keep pushing forward and focus. I know at school, it can be a place where there are students that want to be there and some students that don’t. For a second I was caught into that second group. Whether you have fun or not, remember to focus and do your work. In the end, having a GED gets you into more places than not. 

Q. What are you doing today?

A. Currently working at The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). ).  Also I recently found out I am joining the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Cadet Program. I started the process early this year, March to be exact. It has been a roller coaster ride for me. I had to go through many steps from background checks, interviews, investigations, etc. Today I received word that I got accepted into the program and I'm super thrilled! Throughout the program one will receive training to be a police officer and as well an opportunity to further my education. The program covers all cost in order for one to pursue an Associate's Degree. There was a time in my life that I thought that with a GED I would not be able to do much, but considering how far I have gone, one can do a lot with a GED! My start date for this program is Mid-November and I should be starting school this upcoming semester.

Q. What do you at LAYC?

I am the Health Promotions Outreach Specialist. That entails me to schedule appointments for pregnancy screenings, and STI and HIV testing. I also help other programs within the department. I help with recruitment and grants. I also am the certified CPR instructor for LAYC, so I schedule CPR classes and trainings. 

Q. What is the best part of your job or schooling?

A. The best part is helping other people. Educating people on different infections and diseases that there are in the world. Many people do not know how infections and diseases can be transmitted. Helping show people what options are available.

Q. What are your future professional goals?

A. I want to eventually go into Criminal justice to possibly be a detective or FBI agent. Which I am working on that now. I also took the BARD College Clemente Course. This is a nine-month program that exposes students to college life. Professors from the DMV area teach courses that help students get a feel for college classes. There are Art History, American History, Moral Philosophy, Literature, and Writing classes. Once the nine months are up, if you pass the courses, you receive six humanity credits. It is completely free!

Q. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working or in school?

A. Traveling and seeing new places. Hanging out with friends and going to the gym. And did I put family? Spending time with family.

Q. Shout out’s?

Lita, definitely! She was a great counselor because she was always there for me. I appreciate her and I hope she continues doing what she is doing because it helps. Umm.. and she’s not there anymore, but Ms.Susan.

Q. What would you tell Ms. Susan?

Even with her role as principal, I did not see a disconnect between her and the students. That is really appreciated and recognized.

Dany's 2015 Graduation, pictured bottom right 

Dany's 2015 Graduation, pictured bottom right 

October 2017 Staff Spotlight: Adama Hamadi

By: College and Career Readiness Team

 

Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step Staff as well as Alumni to share their experiences with education and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.

For this month’s Next Step Staff Spotlight, we interviewed Adama Hamadi, Case Manager for Student Support Services.

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Q: What is your name?

A: Adama Hamadi (I was born Adama Konteh, but I share my husband's last name)

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m a scoop of Washington, DC with PG County sprinkles.

Q. Did you encounter any challenges while attending high school/GED program? If so, can you describe what they were and how you overcame them?

A: I’ve always enjoyed learning and studying, so I didn't have many academic challenges in high school, but I do remember feeling uncomfortable about how different I was from the average student at my school.  I was one of a handful of black students in my grade (out of 120) and I was a "Scholarship Kid" surrounded by affluent classmates. My biggest challenge was trying not to compare myself to more privileged classmates or not taking it personally when schoolmates or their parents would make insensitive comments about my background.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a post-secondary education?

A: I didn't know I had the option NOT to go to college!  My parents didn't play those games; they had made up their mind that ALL of their children would get as much formal education as possible. So I went.

Q: Were you the first one in your family continue their education?

A: No. My father has a Master's Degree and 2 of my siblings got their Bachelor's degrees before me.

Q: Where did you continue your post-secondary education?

A: NYU, baby!!! (New York University)

Q: What did you study?

A: Double Major: Spanish/Chemistry (I was pre-med); minor: Social & Cultural Analysis

Q: How did you pay for your post-secondary education?

A: HA! I'm still paying for it!!! (School loans are the WORST!)

Q. What was one of your biggest challenges while attending your post-secondary institution?

A: I spent my sophomore & junior years of college juggling 2.5 jobs with a 21-credit course load; I knew that if I didn't keep up at least a 3.3GPA I would lose my scholarship. My parents were unable to sponsor my college experience so I was taking care of myself financially. I was sooooo stressed out, but I couldn't complain to anyone because I was desperate to stay in New York, so I made it work!

Q. Who or what motivated you to continue and get through your postsecondary education?

A: I genuinely believed that a quality education is always a worthy investment. I took as many interesting classes as I could. I joined a variety of clubs and student groups (Student Initiative against AIDS, Academic Achievement Program, Black Students Science Organization, Muslim Students Association, and African Students Union) and took advantage of the networking, field trips, and free food. I leaned on my roommates and friends for support. I checked in with my parents and siblings a couple times a week, and they always supported me and told me how proud they were. Plus, it didn't hurt that I had a lot of classes in common with the man that would later become my husband...

Q: Why did you decide to work in the education field?

A: I was set to go to med school and become a pediatrician, but decided to take a year off to spend time with my mother. I joined AmeriCorps at LAYC and was placed at different schools around DC to teach sexual health. I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for a second year, and I ended up falling in love with youth work and veering off the pediatrics path altogether.

Q: What is your current role at TNSPCS?

A: Case manager

Q: What advice would you give to students interested in continuing to post-secondary education?

A: I have a few pieces of advice:

1-Don't be afraid to ask for help. Closed mouths don't get fed and there's no prize for burning yourself out, so stop choosing to struggle when you're surrounded by people that want to support you!!!

2-Remember to make time for fun & play. There's so much more to life than good grades.

3-Treat EVERYBODY with respect. You never know where your next big break will come from.

4-Self-care is a practice, not a prize. Practice shutting out the noise and listening to YOURSELF first. YOU are the expert of your experience. YOU know what's best for you and YOU will have to live with the consequences of your decisions. Be the first checkpoint for what you need and the last checkpoint for what you do.

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