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My PD Became My Mentor

By Kimberly Leiba
August 22, 2018

OneGoal – New York Fellow Kimberly L. says she owes her growth as a student and person to her Program Director, Ms. Valencia. Now that Kimberly’s getting ready to enter her first year of college, she wanted to proclaim her gratitude to her mentor, Ms. Valencia.

Kimberly (left) with her Program Director, Ms. Valencia.

When a person does so many selfless things for you, it is rather difficult to pinpoint the very first generous act they performed. However, I can remember what might be the most important one in my life.

Heading to my first period this spring, my OneGoal class, I remember thinking, “Okay, this is the day I hear back from Wesleyan. I got this. I sooo got this … maybe.”

My Assistant Principal, Ms. Blakely, had talked to the admissions counselor and put in a good word for me. I had worked extremely hard to perfect my personal statement, made sure to follow up several times with financial aid, and even attended a small college fair for Wesleyan University in Manhattan. Still, that early confidence faded by the end of the day.

Logging on to my Wesleyan portal, I remember only reading the words “We regret to inform you …”

That was all I got through. I didn’t even bother to read the rest of the sentence, I didn’t need to. I already felt the tears on my waterline, waiting to spill over. My only thought in that moment was to find Ms. Valencia, my Program Director, and tell her, because I knew she would be the only person able to provide the comfort I needed to get over my disappointment.

When I caught up with her, she reminded me that “any setback is only for a greater comeback.” I think that is certainly the moment she became more than just my Program Director, she became my mentor.

Ms. Valencia was able to learn my unique story, shoulder my burdens with me and provide useful advice. She sacrificed her time, and personal life if she had to, in order to help me with any issue. She even saved me from skipping out on lunch and provided me a meal when I couldn’t provide it for myself. Ms. Valencia’s guidance wasn’t just a one-time thing, but an all-the-time deal. No matter what the situation, and no matter how many of us were trying to get her attention, she always found time for her students and for me.

I remember the day I got my first semester report card of senior year, saw the 89 average and broke down. In the moment, it felt like I had been lying to myself the whole semester, telling myself that “I was trying hard” while my grades failed to reflect that. She was in her cubicle and literally dropped everything to turn and remind me that I have resilience and shouldn’t beat myself up. She was there for me when I had no idea how I was going to attend my second dream college, the University of Bridgeport. She instilled in me the idea of faith — of being able to believe that everything will work out in due time the way it should. These are only some of the examples of the dedication and motivation that she has shown me.

Though others have tried, Ms. Valencia is one out of two people who actually understand and can coach me in an effective way. She never gives up, showing that persistence is key, and never puts herself before others, showing a level of selflessness that is admirable. Most importantly, she always tries to make sure every student has a steady ground for college, and a promising future.

It is a great honor to share a snippet of my story with Ms.Valencia, and how she has helped me. She has repeatedly proven what it means to be a role model, simply through her generous advice and genuine understanding. She has set an example for students and adults alike, sacrificing in order to help as much as she can.

She deserves to be acknowledged and should be a great inspiration for other Fellows and their Program Directors, simply for being who she is.

Ms. Valencia should know that her work and dedication to her students is not only her doing her job, but that she is honestly making a change in students’ lives, including mine.

Though I have thanked her various times throughout the years, words cannot express the amount of gratitude I have towards her for her time and patience, and yet I wanted to write the story of my journey with her throughout high school, as a small token of appreciation for her. Thank you Ms. Valencia (also known as the Greatest PD Ever).

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