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Meet a Student

 
 
Checking in with alumni: Eric Wright
 
Eric graduated from El Centro in December 2015. Prior to his March 2014 enrollment, he spent time at a military academy and then at Olney High School. Neither was the right fit for him. “There were a lot of conflicts and no one-on-one attention.” Eric liked El Centro right away. “It’s organized and fast-paced and helped me get on track.”

The structure of El Centro’s advisories (classrooms) and the internship program have been transformational. Like all El Centro students, Eric has been in the same advisory, with the same advisor (teacher), for his entire time at El Centro. The consistency of the advisory and the restorative practices each advisory employ fosters trust and understanding between students. “Advisories make a difference. We create a bond like we’re one big family. We keep each other up. We are always doing circle at the beginning and end of each day to make sure everybody is good. That’s been a big help. Most schools don’t do that, that’s why most kids have problems with each other because they don’t know each other. We have time to get to know everyone so we don’t judge them. We can be more understanding and helpful.” Advisories play a meaningful role in building a positive school culture that inspires hope and demands accountability. “Everybody who is here wants to graduate. We come here to get the work done to make it somewhere in life. Not every student is like that at other schools so they cause problems. This school has kids who are determined to get their diploma and we make sure we keep the peace.”

The pressures of street culture have been challenging for Eric and he is determined to get himself out of situations in which violence is viewed as normal. While his advisory has offered meaningful support to help mitigate the harms of the street and keep him focused on his academic goals, the internship program has solidified his plans for his future. Eric has participated in a variety of internships, including working with phone lines and in retail. His final internship was his favorite: Chores R Us. Here he learned general maintenance, fixing leaks, remodeling, and some landscaping. Eric discovered a real passion through this internship placement that has led to a goal-inspired post-secondary plan. Eric has decided to join the Navy Reserve and attend the Aviation Institute of Maintenance. “This internship prepares me for the real world in my chosen career. I really feel like I’m trying to pursue it. I’m getting a taste of it.” In addition to discovering a new interest, Eric recognizes that his internship experiences have taught him what it’s like to be in the “real world.” He’s learned how to deal with customers and bosses, how to keep his cool, and how to be patient about things. El Centro has given Eric real-world tools to prepare for success, the confidence to know that he can do it, and deep emotional support to help him see beyond the walls of his neighborhood.

“When I was younger I wanted to pursue lots of dreams, but where I grew up, it’s just bad - it doesn’t seem like those dreams are possible. El Centro gives me motivation to work hard to get out of here. I know there is something better. The best thing about life is that you get to choose what is right for you. You just gotta put the effort in. There is better a life... I want that life.”
 
 
 
Lissette in scrubs
Internship spotlight: Lissette Santos
 
I would like for us to congratulate Lissette Santos on landing an internship at St. Christopher's Hospital. But why is this so important?
 
Lissette joined El Centro last year in September of 2015. She was adamant about finding an internship in the medical field, as this was her passion. As advisors, we know how challenging it is to find internships in the medical field. There are so many issues of safety and privacy, not to mention legal hoops to jump through.  I recommended that she start the LTI process in the medical field anyway, but was wary of her giving up on the process because I knew it would take a long time. I have seen many students give up on this process because of the "time frame" challenges and pressures to attain an internship quickly.
 
Lissette was very clear that she was passionate about being in the medical field, and although she sought out an internship in childcare in the interim, she never stopped pursuing her vision.  At the end of last year, this persistence enabled her to land an internship at Planned Parenthood. With that on her resume, she was able to step into an experimental internship at St. Christopher's.  She reached her goal!
 
Lissette's story is a testament to hard work, dedication and perseverance. It also speaks to how valuable the internship program is for our students. Lissette's story is proof that our students can and should seek to make their dreams into reality.
 
--Tenia Thompson, advisor