Promise Team Spotlight - Angelita Aguilar0
Getting a degree is no easy feat. Between studying for exams and writing papers, college students devote a substantial amount of time to preparing for their futures. When the obstacles of everyday living are added to these academic stressors many individuals are forced to halt their secondary education.
This month’s Promise Team Spotlight introduces a member of The Kalamazoo Promise’s (The Promise) staff who helps Promise Scholars get back on track with their collegiate or vocational education. Without further delay, let’s get to know Angelita Aguilar, Director of Credential Completion at The Promise.
Aguilar works with students who have stopped out of college or face challenges getting to graduation or obtaining a degree. Along with her fellow staff members and Pathway Coaches collaborating with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC), she works to develop a holistic approach that assists Promise Scholars in reaching their educational and career goals.
While financial strains present an issue to students that she works with, as they are still responsible for room, board, and educational supplies, Aguilar has noticed that many stop out due to a lack of awareness regarding the programs that they can pursue.
“Many students have not had enough exposure to the different career pathways that are available and are not aware of all ways to personalize their Promise,” she explained. “The Kalamazoo Promise is flexible, and we can still get you back on track. We work with KVCC and Western Michigan University to understand what is available and how students can take advantage of options that will get them a degree.”
Throughout her 22-year career in education, Aguilar has used a quote from academic and political activist Angela Davis as a driving inspiration for her work; “Walls turned sideways are bridges.”
“There are many that live a barrier-free life,” she said. “We need to help others remove the barriers that they face. Ultimately, the goal is that The Promise encourages institutions to see the value of reaching and serving all students. It isn’t fair that students who face barriers are forced to work harder to overcome than those living in privilege.”
Aguilar recognizes that all students are capable of success, but that they may not have access to resources for assistance in meeting their goals. Because of this, equity is a priority in discussions with institutions and when programs are created to serve Promise Scholars.
“We need to help level the playing field,” Aguilar stated. “Some are better equipped financially and educationally or have faced a life that has been less challenging. All of our students want to succeed; we just try to help students find the approach that fits them.”
She admits that her favorite part of her job is seeing Promise Scholars receive their degrees.
“I love when we get the list of students that have received their degree,” Aguilar said with a smile. “I get to put a face to the credentials and know that a person who I had talked to while they were in high school has succeeded.”
Although she is always proud to see another group flourish in both college and vocational programs, Aguilar does not dwell on these victories for too long. She immediately takes steps to set up programs that will serve the next class of high school graduates and form a plan that matches their future goals.
As the younger members of our community grow into adulthood and seek their own careers, it is crucial that we provide them with advocates who can guide them on their professional journeys. Angelita’s work with Promise Scholars embodies the positive effects of these partnerships, and we are incredibly thankful for her focus and dedication to KPS’ youth.