It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey

Every time I am asked about “my story,” I have to start gathering pieces from different places. I was born and raised in Colombia, graduated from high school in Costa Rica, and came to the United States shortly after turning eighteen. During my first years here, I could not utter more than a few words in English. Like many immigrants, I studied the language while working as a home health aide, housekeeper, and even as a production worker at a chocolate factory. As I adapted to the country and grew more confident communicating in English, new opportunities came my way. I was promoted to office manager and was given more responsibilities and better compensation. Starting a new chapter, I thought the logical step was to continue my education, so I enrolled as a general studies major at a community college. However, within a few semesters, I lost focus and realized that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Something was missing.

Angie Gonzalez

Angie Gonzalez

My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to go the long way to find the missing piece in our lives: We got rid of our belongings, quit our jobs, and took a one-way flight to Shanghai. Exploring unfamiliar places like China, Taiwan, Myanmar, India, and Thailand, I learned about my own culture and grew more appreciative toward others. As I roamed through these countries, I was amazed by manmade and natural beauties alike, puzzled by our different ways of living, and connected with complete strangers at a deep level. Yet, there was one more surreal experience awaiting: We were offered a volunteer position teaching English at an orphanage in Mongolia. And just like that, I ended up living in an isolated village with more than 60 children in an already-remote country.

In the course of almost a year, I encountered the challenges of working with emotionally disturbed children, but also experienced the great joys of teaching. I had found the missing piece: teaching and serving disadvantaged children gave me a sense of fulfillment that is hard to put into words. So I headed back to the U.S. with a newly found purpose and clear career goals. Currently, I am a full-time education major at Essex County College in Newark and my determination has allowed me to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA. Additionally, I serve as the vice president of public relations of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at my school and as the founding president of the Future Teachers Club. Outside of school, I work at an after-school community program with three- and four-year-old children and also volunteer as often as I can. At the end of the spring semester, I will receive my Associate of Arts in Education before transferring to Montclair State University to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Child Studies with a Teacher Certification in Elementary School. Looking back, I appreciate the long journey and all the experiences that have shaped me into who I am today and have given me the confidence I need to achieve my goals. I just hope to keep learning, traveling, and teaching for many years to come.

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How is the Pearson Scholarship helping you succeed?

For many students like me, private scholarships are often times the only way to graduate without a huge debt. Receiving this award has helped me lighten a financial load that can be very overwhelming and stressful at times, and it has allowed me to focus on learning. More importantly, it has encouraged me to keep giving back to the community. The Pearson Scholarship helps me feel confident transferring to a four-year institution knowing that part of the tuition difference is covered and the financial hardship lessened.

In your opinion, what is the value of mentorship?

In addition to helping me pay for tuition and providing textbooks, the Pearson Scholarship has offered me a complete support system. Throughout a selective process, I was matched with Phoenix Harvey, a very positive and energetic mentor, with whom it has been very easy to develop a relationship. Our monthly connections help us catch up and discuss what is going on in our lives. Phoenix is there for me to answer questions, read my essays, and give me guidance when I ask for it. I believe the mentorship portion of the scholarship complements the award and makes it unique. Also, when you know there is one person following your progress, you are motivated to keep working hard and stay committed to graduate. Real success is not an individual affair, but a collective one, and I am grateful to have the Pearson team as part of my support system.

Angie is one of ten recipients of the 2015 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Each Pearson Scholar is paired with a Pearson professional mentor who provides support as Scholars progress toward degree completion. Learn more about the Pearson Scholarship here. We are incredibly proud of all the Pearson Scholars. Please check back as we continue to highlight each scholar’s story!