Teaching others to thrive in today’s business culture

group shot of college students working to improve employability

Corrupt. Unstable. Helpless. Hopeless. These all describe my native country – the place that has shaped my life into what it is today. Growing up in Miami, I did not think much of my solely Spanish-speaking household and it did not cross my mind to wonder what conditions my parents worked in. I had a roof over my head, enough school supplies to last me the year and that was all I needed. It was not until high school when my father lost his job that I realized how selfish I had been. I remember thinking, “that’s okay; he’s so smart he’ll get another job next week.” A month passed and I realized his smarts were of no use if he did not have a degree. Two months passed and I realized his opinions did not matter if interviewers could not understand his words.

Rachel Diaz

Rachel Diaz

Eventually, my father turned to me for help – and I never felt more helpless. I knew learning English was not all he needed. My father had to learn how to prove his worth to others in today’s business culture. I thought back on the stories about the nonexistent job market in Cuba and it became clear: my parents did not know how to market themselves because they never had the opportunity. I noted how my father’s unemployment was a result of the business cycle I learned about in Economics class, and decided to study Economics in college to find out how this mysterious cycle worked, but I knew that was not enough to improve its outcome. I wanted to learn how to improve this outcome and make a difference for others like my father. They needed to learn how to survive the lows or they would never reach the highs. I spent my first semester of college applying for international seminars and conferences to seek the guidance of those abroad. I hoped these experiences would give me a multi-faceted view on the characteristics needed for success so I could relay these untold secrets to those struggling in my community. Throughout the conferences, I mustered enough courage to ask for advice not expecting much in return. To my surprise, distinguished international professors and high-ranking professionals were willing and eager to help somebody as inexperienced as me.

Toward the end of that first year in college, it finally sunk in that I had to stop wishing for a way to give out this information to others and had to start acting to find one. I began creating a workforce development program that tackled students’ major-related insecurities by offering career readiness workshops and connecting them to businesses and non-profit organizations in their area. After presenting my program to the campus President and the Honors College director, I was humbled and grateful to receive full funding by the campus and for my program to be integrated into a leadership course for students can take full advantage of.

Even with this swift, sudden progress, the self-assigned quest I am on has not ended because it is not limited to a specific goal. I am reveling in every moment and employing all I learn constantly to bring up those that have only been turned down.

The unique mentorship component of the Pearson Scholarship is successfully leading me toward the programs, career choices and organizations that are right for me and helping me minimize the time spent on expensive indecision.  Personally, mentorship itself has been an enormous part of my growth as a student and a person. Whether it was my parents, my high school counselors or my professors, each person that has helped guide me toward my goals has molded a specific part of my character, for the better. Because of the influential role models in my life I started Paving Pathways, the mentorship and workforce readiness program on campus that guides those who feel as lost as I felt my first year of college. Whether it is related to a student’s academic or career-related endeavors, I feel that having a mentor gives you a sense of security and a shoulder to lean on when the future seems murky with uncertainty.

The financial aspect of the scholarship also lifts an enormous burden off my shoulders given that my parents are unable to help me pay for any school-related expenses. The scholarship allows me to focus on my schoolwork without having to stress constantly about whether or not I am heading in the right direction while providing the means to get there as well.

Rachel is a recipient of the 2016 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Each Pearson Scholar is paired with a Pearson professional mentor who provides support as Scholars progress toward degree completion. We are incredibly proud of all the Pearson Scholars. Please check back as we continue to highlight each scholar’s story!