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Rocketship Graduate Aims for the Stars as Future Aerospace Engineer

College was my mom’s dream, but once I became a Rocketeer, that dream became mine too. I live that dream every day at the University of California, Irvine where I am studying to become an aerospace engineer. My middle sister, Marlenne, dreamt of becoming a nurse one day and is currently studying public health at San Jose State University. We’re the first in our family to go to college and we are our parents’ dreams fulfilled.

Long before I was born, my mother, Maria Serratos immigrated to the US from Jalisco, Mexico with my father, settling down in the Yerba Buena neighborhood of San Jose, California to start a family. Although my parents wanted to continue their education past middle and elementary school and possibly going to college, plans changed, and their focus shifted to creating as many opportunities as they could for myself and my two younger sisters. My mom made our education her top priority. Her college dream became our dream and always told us a college education would open doors for us so we could build and lead successful and happy lives as adults.

My mom always told us we could go to college. So did our elementary school – Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy. Even today if I am in doubt of my abilities, I remind myself of these three words – yes we can.

My sister, Marlenne, and I were part of the founding class at Rocketship Sí Se Puede in East San Jose. Impressed with Rocketship’s personalized learning approach my mom decided to take us out of the local public elementary school and enrolled us at Rocketship where I started in third grade.The transition was sudden, but soon, we acclimated to our new environment quickly, creating lasting bonds with our teachers and classmates alike. I even met my lifelong best friend, Ethan, my first year at Rocketship. In fact, Ethan is now my roommate at UC Irvine!

Marlenne and I really enjoyed the depth of our relationships with our Rocketship teachers. We always felt cared for and seen, and liked how our teachers had strong relationships with our parents – not just us students. Rocketship went above and beyond parent teacher conferences – whenever I needed extra help, my teachers would reach out to my parents and sit down with them and me to talk about it. As Marlenne would say, “it’s really cool to get to know your teachers!” Her favorite teacher was Ms. Netter, who taught Marlenne how to tell time – an important life skill that she had trouble with before Ms. Netter took the time to coach her.

College and high school expectations were front and center at Sí Se Puede. After having it easy at my old school, I finally felt challenged and engaged enough in school and was able to accelerate in certain subjects where I was mastering the content. I felt there was far more intention in the school day compared to my previous school. My sister and I both enjoyed the time set aside each day in the school day to read. It was the first time we ever had reading time at school, and I wish we still had that now in college.

Perhaps the most memorable learnings my sister and I carry from Rocketship are not necessarily tied to coursework, but the values and soft skills that our teachers taught us. Our school values really resonate with us in particular. As Marlenne puts it, “values – they’re really important because they will take you far in life and set you up for the future. Responsibility. Respect. Empathy. Persistence. Healthy Choices. I carried these values with me through middle school, high school and now college.”

Our advice for elementary school kids in our neighborhood who want to go to college just like us and will be the first in their families to do so: don’t be afraid – of building relationships with your teachers, asking for help, or raising your hand in class. Try new things. Work hard now – it will pay off later, take it from me.

Published on June 3, 2021

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