Alexandra joined IDEA as a student, worked her way through college and now teaches at IDEA Montopolis CP. She has since joined IDEA’s Relay Residency program which allows her to teach and earn her master’s degree. Below is Alexandra’s journey through IDEA in her own words.
I joined the IDEA Team & Family in 2009 and graduated in 2013 as a member of the first graduating class from IDEA Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. Like most IDEA students, I did not step foot on the campus because it was my will to be there; I was “forced” to go from my traditional public school to a brand-new school with one hallway to its name.
I quickly started to realize that everything, from the messaging on the walls to the adults in the building, wanted me to reach a goal: going to college. With time, I started to understand why all of the adults in the building cared so much and were so involved and passionate about the mission. For the first time, I had been made aware of all the barriers that had been placed before me, as a Hispanic female from a border town in America.
I had come to realize that one of the few organizations that was making a small population of people, in the demographic that consistently falls prey to the infamous “cycle of poverty,” aware of the low expectations that society had for them, was my school.
It was after facing this harsh reality that I started to see the why “Closing the Achievement Gap” was so important, and why I had to be one more person to tip the scale in favor of people who look like me. Because I, unlike my family, had been presented with the opportunity to obtain a better education, and ultimately become the first person in my household to go to college to break this cycle, which had posed a challenge for so many students of my background before me.
After four years of hard work and dedication to become a representative for what “my people” could do, the day finally came—the day I signed and committed to the University of Texas at Austin (UT). It was on this day that I was fully aware of the joy and pride that my accomplishment had brought upon my family; I was also aware of the responsibility that was soon to be mine to accept and fulfill.
College Signing Day was one of the most beautiful and meaningful days of my life, and as a teacher now, the mention of it and the idea of any other students going through it does not cease to make me emotional because the experience was so powerful for my friends, my family and myself.
Fast forward to my first year at UT, I found myself in a state of crisis in which I, for the first time ever, had become doubtful of my abilities and had questioned whether or not I belonged at such a prestigious institution. I reached out to many of my former classmates who had also left home and found that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. We saw first hand that the playing field was not leveled. And that yes, we were now competing, in real time, with students from bigger cities, with more experiences, with better academic opportunities, and clearly, a better financial standing than we had ever known.
For four years, I had to tell myself that this was not only for me, but for my family—primarily my younger brother and sister. I had to remind myself that I was not going to become another stereotype-inducing statistic in which I could not finish something I had started because of my background and zip code.
It’s important to note that, though I was physically away from my family, I was never alone in the transformative journey that was receiving a higher education at a Tier II university. Ultimately, through the continued support and the unshakable foundation my wonderful parents provided me, I was able to graduate in 4 years with a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and a minor in Human Development and Family Sciences.
Where I come from, the “real” high school experience came from the work me and my peers did to accomplish something much, much greater than we could have ever imagined—the honor to have made it “to and through college,” as a testament to the potential of a wonderful community of individuals. I could not have been more proud to graduate from IDEA.
I chose to work at IDEA because I felt a huge sense of responsibility to the organization. I had a very strong need to “give back” in some way, and I figured that working for them, in a community very much like mine, would be a good way to start. I on-boarded with the IDEA Montopolis Team last year as a Relay Resident, and this year as the lead English I teacher in 9th grade.
I’ve had a great experience so far, as I’ve found myself surrounded by a very supportive group of people who hold the shared belief that our students deserve the very best, and work to accomplish that. I love the culture of feedback and celebrating each other that Montopolis has. Being a first year teacher is not easy, so I think that the positive environment that I find myself in has made it manageable and enjoyable.