Moving to a new school can be a challenge, even more, when it’s in a new country. Jakelline Rodriguez moved to San Luis, Arizona, from Mexicali, Mexico, when she was a high school freshman.
English is a second language for Jakelline, and when she moved to the U.S, she wanted to focus on learning English and keep up with her classes. As a result, she didn’t get very involved with GEAR UP at San Luis High School until her senior year, and at that point, you could almost always find her in the GEAR UP office.
“I made up for all four years in one,” Jakelline said. “I would get to school early and leave late, spending as much time as I could in the office.”
One of Jakelline’s most significant memories was applying for a scholarship from College Success Arizona. For weeks, she worked with her GEAR UP coaches, preparing her application essay.
“I wrote three completely different essays, trying to get it just right,” Jakelline said.
The third time was the charm. Jakelline made it to the next round of interviews and spent the next few weeks doing mock interviews with her coaches.
“I was so nervous. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find the right English word in time to answer all of their questions,” Jakelline said.
The interview day came, and the nerves didn’t get to her. Jakelline impressed the scholarship panel in the interview and earned the scholarship.
She decided to stay close to home after graduation and attend Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona. Jakelline waited to declare a major but focused on her interests in computer software. While in school, Jakelline wanted to get involved as much as possible and joined the Community Service Club, where she would eventually become club president.
Along with the scholarship, College Success Arizona helped Jakelline find a job at her old high school. She helps advise students and prepare them for postsecondary education.
“It’s the perfect job for me. I wanted to go back to San Luis and help students like me,” Jakelline said.
While attending AWC, she applied for another honor, the All-Arizona Academic Team. This award is open to students across the state involved with community involvement and academic excellence. While nervous about applying, Jakelline persevered and made it to the interview round.
“I think it is important to do things that scare you because eventually the nerves will disappear, and you’ll be better because of it,” Jakelline said.
Jakelline impressed again in the interviews, making the All-Arizona Academic Team.
Jakelline transferred to the University of Arizona, where she studies informatics and software development. With COVID and remote learning, she remains home in San Luis, where she still helps out her community. She also plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Business and Law. In the future, Jakelline wants to create a scholarship to support students from her old high school, which is another way she can pay it forward.
“They [GEAR UP Coaches] become your family. They invest in you and provide all these opportunities,” Jakelline said. “They give students everything they need to succeed.”