Flagstaff, AZ – Melissa Sepulveda is barely out of her teens but she’s well on her way to achieving a career goal that could return her to a high school environment for decades to come. She wants to be a math teacher.
Melissa explains, “I find that for most students, they think math is really hard, because their foundational steps aren’t normally as strong. Also, I pick up on subjects pretty easily and math happens to be one of those subjects. I want to be able to help those people who don’t get it, or they don’t like math because they don’t understand.”
Melissa adds that her love of math is lifelong:
“Since I was young, I’ve always been involved in doing different (math) problems and problem-solving. It’s a really big passion of mine, because I love school in general, but math is my favorite. I’ve always really liked the environment of school, and when I find myself in the actual classroom, I’m always wanting to teach other people or help whoever I can.”
Melissa, age 20, graduated from South Ridge High School in Phoenix and she’s currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education at Northern Arizona University.
In addition to her studies, Melissa is also a member of the NAUTeach program, “It’s a club for up and coming teachers in the fields of science and mathematics. Essentially, in this program we’re able to go through our lesson plans that we would teach in the classroom and get feedback, as well as be around other people who are in a similar circumstance. It’s a very friendly environment where we’re not judged, and receive a lot of support.”
Melissa is among the many hard-working students who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, “The scholarship has been a big financial help. For me, being the first of six children, it’s been really amazing that I’ve earned the scholarship, because had I not, it would have been a really huge burden on my family. Just the idea of not having to think about the debt I would have without this scholarship – it’s piece of mind to know that I only have to worry about my studies, and concentrate on doing well.”
Students such as Melissa, also receive specialized mentoring services from “Success Advisers” provided by College Success Arizona. Robert Davis is Melissa’s success adviser, “Robert has been like that older sibling that I never had. He gives me advice on what I should do and on what I need to do, but he’s also there as a friend. He advises me about college a lot because he’s been there and been through it himself. Robert is there to provide me with any information that I ever need.”
Meanwhile, on the home-front, Melissa says her family has played a big role in her attending college, “My mom has always been a great support for me and my siblings. She’s always told us from day one of kindergarten that, ‘you can always do whatever you want to do as long as you try really hard, no matter what comes at you, you can face it – it’s going to be hard but you can do it.’ My greatest motivation is knowing that I can make a difference in the world even by helping one step at a time in my family. So, being the first one in my family to go to college, and to show my siblings that they can go too, is my greatest motivation.”
For middle and high school students considering college, Melissa has some advice, “I would say, don’t give up. There are people in the world who are going to tell you, that you can’t do it, but you’ve just got to believe in yourself and know that when it gets rough there’s always that light at the end of the tunnel. Also, you can always ask somebody for help and if they don’t help, find somebody else.”