STORIES FROM FELLOWS AND ALUMNI

Going After What You Want
Kimberly Martes, University of Buffalo, Spring '18 Cohort

One of my first jobs as a college student was in retail. It was an amazing feeling to get the first job. After working a few different retail jobs, I realized that I needed something new. Working in retail only landed me interviews for other retail jobs. I thought that after college I would like to work with kids, so I applied to several afterschool programs. I got a lot of emails saying “we have moved to another candidate based on your qualifications.”

After so many disappointments I decided to apply to the Boys and Girls Club near my school. I got the same response and was ready to give up and just work at the mall. After a few weeks, I still thought about how much I wanted to work with kids. I walked to the club a few minutes away from my school in the snow. I told the supervisor that I didn't think my resume represented all the qualifications I have as a person. He was interested because I came to the club even after the email he sent. He set up a time to give me an in-person interview that next day. After the interview and a day with the kids, he offered me the job!

This experience opened many doors for me. I got an amazing internship over the summer of my junior year where I gained even more experiences that have helped me. One thing I have learned is that if you want something, you have to go and get it - literally! When you show interest in something, chances are that someone will notice that interest too!

Lessons from Elementary School Come Full Circle
Ore Adelaja, SUNY Albany, Spring '17 Cohort

Do you remember being in kindergarten? Learning how to read? Learning how to add numbers? No, me neither. I do recall Ms. Sigalow being my favorite teacher and the innocence and happiness of being a five year old learning. I distinctly remember Ms. Sigalow teaching us about penguins and to this day I can differentiate between a Macaroni penguin and an Emperor penguin. I owe all my Spheniscidae trivia to kindergarten, yet recalling the basic foundations of literacy and arithmetics was dumbfounding to me. I could not remember how I learned to read, so I feared I would be useless in teaching these precocious children how to do so for themselves.

Although I don’t remember much from kindergarten, I remember first grade. I struggled solving “greater than” and “less than” number problems and seven year old me could not stand the ignorance. When my classmates grumbled about having to do the homework assignments, I just did it. I figured that the less I complained and the more I just tackled the problem head-on, the more likely I would be successful. Seven year old me was onto something.

When my school abruptly switched me from being the 4th grade Teacher-in-Residence (TIR) to the kindergarten TIR, I was nervous, but the lessons I learned in grade school prepared me for this challenge. When I first stepped into the role, I simply observed, so I could acclimate myself to the new grade. I became more involved in the scholars’ learning as I supported the reading rooms. I fell in love with the grade the moment Jayden figured out the word "red" and then, was able to read an entire book by himself--I almost shed a tear. Kindergarten taught me that we all started from somewhere and life is a lesson that we learn through experiences.

Finding Inner Confidence Through Connecting with Others
Selena Bailey, Brooklyn College, Fall '17 Cohort

I’ll be honest- finding a job is HARD. It’s emotionally draining putting on this performance of your best self at the drop of a hat and after back-to-back rejections it’s even harder to want to apply again. On paper I was the perfect candidate: experienced, articulate, strong skill set, but still was getting rejected left and right. “These companies don’t see that I would be a perfect fit for them”, “I’m not good enough for these jobs”, “Am I reaching too high for a fresh college grad?” All of these thoughts were constantly running through my mind especially during interviews.

I received an invite to a Basta event hosted by Girl Scouts of America discussing impostor syndrome and feeling as though you don’t belong. We had a discussion about all these insecurities and feelings of self doubt and I could not believe my ears that all these successful, beautiful, mature women sitting beside me shared my exact same thoughts. The entire time I’ve been job searching, I have been putting up this wall of self doubt because I assumed everyone but me was so perfect and prepared for the positions I’ve interviewed for.

Two days after the event, I received an invitation to a phone interview. I started to get nervous before the phone screening even though Basta helped me prep and practice my responses, so I looked through my notes from the Girl Scouts event. Rereading those stories and words of advice from so many successful women made me feel confident and excited to start the interview. I am expected for a final interview next week!

Starting Over in the US
Tram Le, University of Maryland, Fall '17 Cohort

As I came to the U.S. in my late teens, I always felt my life has started from zero. An old friend who came to the US 2-3 years before asked me if I really knew what USA means. I said no, and he said that it means "you start again." I was laughing out loud but actually crying inside my heart. I saw this is so true, not only for me but for all those of us who immigrated to the US. For me, to be honest, that was not easy for the first five years.

First, I started to "learn English" again. Because I did not have enough knowledge in English as they required to access to the first year of college, I started in the community college as many immigrants do. It took 1.5 years to finish all the requirements for English to get into my major. I was majoring in Chemical Engineering at that time. Engineering was so tough for me. Every time I would feel so dumb when I could not solve an organic chemistry problem. I thought about quitting then...but, I could not. Because I almost finished everything up and I just had 3 classed toward the Associates degree. I knew that I could not throw away all my contributions, hard-working, sleepless nights, and tears to the ocean at that time.

I eventually earned this award and the day I received the diploma I wanted to cry hard. If I did not have my mom and my friends with me to keep me up, I would not have achieved this. In the past, I was in the top three of students in high school in Vietnam. Because of this, I always wanted to be "a bright star" of my class. And my college experience has taught me to be patient in everything. It taught me in order to be successful I have to learn to be patient first.