BHC student mentors visit former schools

By Stephanie Ball

Twenty pint-size nurses, teachers and future leaders shuffled their feet in a single-file line across the glossy, laminate flooring of Withers Elementary school. The second grade students stopped in front of the career day table and were greeted by Brookhaven College students. A girl wearing a white lab coat and a nurse’s hat instantly raised her hand.

College students Hunter Estes and Jessica Rodriguez volunteered to discuss college and career options with students at Withers Elementary March 7.

The little nurse bounced her stethoscope in her hands and turned side to side. After glancing at her teacher for approval, she asked the first question of the day: “What are we going to learn?”

Rodriguez, an Early College High School charter graduate and Brookhaven student, smiled at the second grade girl and answered her question. Rodriguez said to do well in school the students need to study. “In college there is more homework, but don’t get scared, because you can do it if you work hard,” Rodriguez said.

The Brookhaven Outreach Department worked with the school to promote college readiness.

Suzette Vaquera-Constantine, outreach and recruitment coordinator, organizes campus tours and works with high school seniors. She helps students volunteer and inform the community about services at Brookhaven.

“We have been going to the elementary, middle and high schools for a long time to serve and speak with the kids,” Constantine said. “It is a full circle when we have Brookhaven students go back and talk at the schools they went to when they were younger.”

Estes and Rodriguez are volunteers with outreach services and are past students of Withers Elementary.

Estes, a psychology major, said he always wanted to volunteer and enjoys working with kids. “I wanted to tell them about my experiences, and I hope they won’t make the same mistakes I did,” Estes said. “It is hard to transition to an adult, but it is going to happen one way or the other.”

Rodriguez said she had to grow up faster than her friends because she was taking high school and college classes at the same time. She was in the first freshman class of ECHS at Brookhaven in 2004.

Rodriguez is a student at Brookhaven and University of North Texas, where she is completing a degree in bilingual early childhood education.

“In high school, we were encouraged to go to a university after ECHS and we were like a family,” Rodriguez said. “I always had someone to go to for help so I want to give back to others in return.”

Teachers at Withers Elementary who know Estes and Rodriguez approached the former students to hug them and discuss their future plans.

A second grade bilingual class circled the Brookhaven table and a little boy asked, “How do you get into college?”

Rodriguez responded by discussing the importance of getting good grades and being on time. She said she took summer classes and 15 hours of college credits a semester while at Brookhaven and maintained high grades.

Rodriguez said her good grades and hard work helped her earn the Emerald Eagles Scholars award, a scholarship that provides free tuition for four years at UNT.

“Throughout the four years of ECHS I feel like I had the support and attention of my teachers,” Rodriguez said. “Staying involved helps you grow as a person.”

Estes and Rodriguez told the second graders not to be afraid of working hard in school.

Estes said he likes volunteering and talking with kids because they can relate to his story. “When you volunteer, it helps you as much as it helps the people in need,” Estes said.

Vaquera-Constantine has taken several volunteers over the years to elementary, middle and high schools and said the students are always responsive and attentive. “It is so powerful when a Brookhaven student goes back to their former school and shares with the students,” Vaquera-Constantine said.

Rodriguez said trying hard in class and staying in school will help in the long run.

“As a student, you need to believe in yourself and be proud of your accomplishments because your education is very important,” Rodriguez said.