UConn HomeThe UConn Advance
Send a printer-friendly page to my printer 
Email a link to this page.

Greater Hartford Campus helps students take steps toward careers

- October 16, 2006

by Marcia Roth-Tucci

For Vanessa Rodriquez, the right choice makes all the difference in the world.

That's what she tells the kids in her Hartford church youth group, and that's what she tells her students at Bulkeley High School since she began teaching there this fall.

"No matter what your circumstances, your neighborhood, or the choices your parents make, everyone has the ability to choose what they want to do with their own lives," says Rodriquez, a recent graduate of the Neag School of Education's Integrated Bachelor/Master's Program in Secondary Education Mathematics.

"One choice can change everything," Rodriquez says. "My father made a choice to enter a drug rehabilitation program, and that one choice led to a different kind of life for my family."

Vanessa Rodriquez
Vanessa Rodriquez
Photo by Frank Butash

When her parents bought a home during her sophomore year in high school, Rodriquez transferred from the West Hartford school system to Hartford Public High.

In a culturally diverse environment, she says, she felt at ease with her Puerto Rican heritage and the transition was easier than many expected.

"I liked the change, for me it was very positive," she says.

The honors student tutored other students in mathematics and became active mentoring kids in a youth group at Glory Chapel International Cathedral.

Although she was accepted to the Storrs campus, Rodriquez decided to attend the Greater Hartford Campus for her first two years.

"I knew that I wasn't ready to leave home yet. For me, it was the right choice."

When she transferred to Storrs to complete her degree, she says, she felt well prepared and ready for success.

As a student teacher working with Bulkeley High School students, Rodriquez has encouraged some of them to consider the Greater Hartford Campus too.

"Teaching is more than just explaining math," says Rodriquez.

"The kids want to know about your life and how you made it. When they see that I could do it, that helps them realize that they can too.

"I try to help them realize that it's really their choice," she says. "And then we can focus on the math."

Luis Ayala
Luis Ayala
Photo by Frank Butash

by Marcia Roth-Tucci

When Luis Ayala's mother made the decision to come to America, he was a young boy growing up in the colonial city of Trujillo, Peru. Left behind with relatives and his younger brother, his future uncertain, Luis dreamed of becoming a dentist.

This fall, the long road toward his goal brought him to Storrs, as a junior majoring in biology.

In 1998, Ayala's mother sent for her children. Ayala arrived at Hartford Public High in his sophomore year knowing only the colors and how to count in English.

He enrolled in the bilingual program, but upon graduation had only mastered a medium level of fluency.

"My English wasn't good enough for me to enter college directly, so I entered the ESL program at Capital Community College," Ayala says.

For one-and-a-half years, Ayala took non-credit courses in reading, writing, and English.

But it wasn't until he began tutoring at an elementary school through the Work Study Program that he made true progress.

"Working with kids was an amazing way for me to learn English," he says. "The kids and I learned together."

Ayala moved out of ESL classes and began taking general education courses. The dream of being in health care was still very much on his mind, so he contacted a professor at UConn for advice on which courses to take.

"In high school I was told I wasn't college material. I had low self-confidence, but my mother really encouraged me," Ayala says.

"I just persisted."

From Capital Community College, Ayala transferred to UConn and decided to attend the Greater Hartford Campus for two years before coming to Storrs.

He welcomed the small, multicultural environment and individual attention from professors.

In order to be more competitive, he re-took some of his science courses at UConn.

Ayala was so appreciative of the help he received in making the transition from community college to UConn that he began mentoring two Capital Community College students, one from Columbia, the other from India.

They began at the Greater Hartford Campus, just as Ayala arrived in Storrs.

ADVANCE HOME         UCONN HOME The UConn Advance
© University of Connecticut
Disclaimers, Privacy, & Copyright
EMail the Editor        Text only