And she never left.
Betty got a part-time job organizing supplies for the adult program. Little by little she found herself working first with sixth graders, then seventh, then other students in the Children’s Aid after-school program, most of whom spoke Spanish. She’s now the data specialist coordinator, part of the Data Information Outcomes Unit at Salomé Ureña Campus.
When an opportunity arose through a Children’s Aid partner to attend Hostos Community College, and to earn professional certification in after-school programming, she jumped at it, encouraged by her supervisors. She first earned the certification and then her associate’s degree, which led to a job promotion and a raise. “Due to the promotion,” she says proudly, “I was able to get my own apartment with my sister.” Then she enrolled at Boricua College, where she recently earned a bachelor’s degree in childhood education; she was the only summa cum laude from her class. She is a first generation college graduate from her family here in the United States. Graduate school will be her next step.
She has come full circle, from an evening ESL student to co-teaching a class this past school year (2015-2016) for parents, on the executive functions of the brain. She is also in charge of organizing signature community events such as the annual health fair, a Thanksgiving dinner, and the holiday show.
Betty is grateful to the Children’s Aid community schools for their support to immigrants like herself and plans to give back: “My achievements will help me open doors for other children and parents in our community, the way this school opened so many doors for me.” Betty is the proud mother of 3-year-old Dewey Cruz. She has no doubt that in a few years he will be the one wearing different caps and gowns. “Until he gets his Ph.D.,” she said with a big smile.