By: College and Career Readiness Team
Welcome to the Next Step Spotlight! Every month throughout the school year we highlight a Next Step alumnus or staff member to share their experiences with education and how both good and bad moments have guided them to success.
For this month, we interviewed Ana Maria Hernandez (Alumnus) who graduated from Next Step in 2014.
Q: Where were you born? How did you hear about The Next Step PCS?
A: I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. I saw the poster for the ESL program on a bus in DC.
Q: What attracted you to The Next Step PCS and how was your experience?
A: I was new to this country and didn’t speak English at the time, so I was thrilled to enroll in their ESL program. There aren’t enough words to describe how awesome my experience was at The Next Step. I learned English by being in classes with native speakers, and I was also able to take the GED test. I am very grateful because this school also helped me with applying to college and scholarships, which helped me with my transition from The Next Step. While I was at The Next Step, I also took a dual enrolment class at UDC Community College, which gave me experience beforehand of how the higher education system operated in the US, and I was able to mentally prepare well for it.
Q: In what language did you pass the GED?
A: I took the GED test in Spanish, which is my native language.
Q: Is English your primary language? If no, what is your primary language?
A: English is my second language. I am a native Spanish speaker.
Q: Did you take ESL courses? If so, where and for how long did you take ESL courses?
A: I took ESL classes at The Next Step for 2 semesters.
Q: How long did it take you to pass the GED?
A: I took the GED test a couple months after I registered at The Next Step – about 3-4 months.
Q: What was your motivation to pass the GED?
A: I was motivated to pass the GED test because I knew it would allow me to continue with the next step in my academic goals, which, at the time, was to obtain an associate’s degree.
Q: Did you ever feel frustrated during your time at The Next Step PCS?
A: I did not feel frustrated at The Next Step; on the contrary, I was so glad and relieved that I was able to find this school. They guided me to all the open doors which for a long time I saw as closed or non-existing. For example, I thought I wasn’t able to go to school in this country, and I was considering going back to Colombia because it is my dream to earn a college degree. But, it wasn’t until I spoke with the college and career advisor, and she told me about all the opportunities for students. I learned how to navigate the systems of applying to scholarships and colleges. I remembered about certificates programs, so while in college, I took advantage of some of the free A+ courses through UDC’s workforce department.
Q. Who or what helped you pass the GED?
A: La pura verdad? (Truthfully?) The Next Step motivated me to take the GED test. There is where I learned the value of it, and that It would open many doors for me in the US. Being able to take the GED in Spanish was such a blessing for me because it allowed me to continue learning English at the same time that I was moving forward with the next steps. I feel that I would have been set back in my content knowledge if I had to learn English first then take the GED test in English because I had recently graduated high school in Colombia, so all the information was fresh.
Q: Did you receive any scholarships?
A: I was awarded the Mundo Scholarship from The Next Step along with the Ben Friedberg Scholarship. Also, I received the New Futures Scholarship, which I applied through The Next Step.
Q: What advice would you give to current students at The Next Step PCS who are trying to obtain the GED?
A: To not be nervous about it, allow time to prepare for every subject, and definitely take it when you are ready. Don’t allow too much time to pass you by.
Q: What are you doing today?
A: I completed my associates degree program in Computer Science at the University of the District of Columbia – Community College. I am currently working on an IT certification and transferring to George Mason University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in statistics.
Q: What is the best part of your job or schooling?
A: Although I am not currently working in my field, the thing that I love the most about school is being able to meet such amazing people with the same academic goals – students and professors. Being able to be a part of an academic environment makes me feel a part of a community, with classmates and professors, that enjoys to network and learn.
Q: What are your future professional goals?
A: I plan on leveraging my background in computer science, programming, finance, and statistics to secure a position in the ever-expanding field of analytics.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working or in school?
A: I love spending time with my friends and family, which I have the blessing of seeing often.