Alumni Spotlight: Austin College Junior and Future Teacher Talks about IMPACT

Mariana ToncheMariana Tonche is a graduate of YES Prep North Forest and a junior at Austin College. We interviewed her about her plans for the future and her experiences as an IMPACT scholar.

What are you studying at Austin College?

I’m a Spanish major with an Education and Sociology double minor. In four and a half years, I’ll graduate with both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education.

Why do you want to be a teacher?

I had a great experience at YES Prep North Forest. I want to provide the same experience for kids who don’t have access to resources or who grew up in neighborhoods similar to the one I did. I want to help families and kids learn the path to get to college so they don’t feel alone. I have older brothers, but I was the first to go to college. I wouldn’t have known how to do it if it weren’t for my college counselor, Ms. Kelley. She even convinced my dad that it was okay for me to leave Houston for college.

What do you want to teach?

I haven’t decided between elementary bilingual or high school Spanish. In kindergarten, I didn’t speak a word of English, and our school didn’t have a good ESL program. Those first few weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know what was being said to me or what my teachers wanted. I’d like to provide students with a chance to understand and grow and be supported.

Tell us about your experience with the IMPACT program. How did it prepare you for college?

I remember qualifying for the program after I took the PSAT. They looked at my test scores and GPA and recommended that I apply to IMPACT schools because the schools would help me financially and keep providing the level of support after I started college. I went to the IMPACT college fair and met with different representatives. I saw a number of them several times over the course of two or three years. I built relationships with them. You knew that there would be an advocate for you on campus. You knew you’d have that resource available to you, which would make college less scary. Also, you knew that, if you went to an IMPACT school, you wouldn’t be alone. There would be other YES Prep students going through the transition with you.

How did you decide on Austin College?

A few weeks before Senior Signing Day, I had all my acceptances. We sat down and looked at all my financial aid packages. I wanted to make my decision based on financial aid so my family didn’t have to struggle. Austin College ultimately gave me the best package. However, when I first saw the package, it didn’t look like enough. I called Amanda (Austin College’s admissions representative). They flew me in for a visit and so I could meet with financial aid. After visiting the campus, it felt like home. It was very small and exactly what I was looking for. The professors seemed nice and as though they cared about you. You could go up to them and talk to them or email and call. I was also hosted by another YES Prep alumna, and she talked to me about Austin College from a YES Prep student’s perspective. That’s ultimately what helped me make the decision; Austin College showed so much interest in me.

What lesson did you carry with you from YES Prep to college?

Even if things seem hard, there’s always a way. College seemed impossible to me and my family. But YES Prep showed me that there was a way. YES Prep teachers cared for us and made sure we had everything we needed to be successful. They taught us to meet deadlines and be on top of time management. In college, those deadlines pass quickly and professors don’t remind you. They just put the date on the syllabus.

Read about another YES Prep North Forest alumnus and IMPACT scholar here.

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