Devoted to making college graduation a reality for students from educationally underserved communities, long-time partners KIPP and YES Prep were proud to host our first Solidarity Walk to demonstrate our joint resolve for educational and social equity. The Solidarity Walk drew over 200 participants on April 1, 2017 at MacGregor Park. We kicked off the Solidarity Walk with student performances and speeches by YES Prep and KIPP-Houston alumni. Below, you’ll find the speech by YES Prep alumna, Jessica Trejo.
My name is Jessica Trejo and I graduated from YES Prep Southeast in 2009. I started my journey at YES Prep in 9th grade. Before YES, I attended the Pioneering Class at KIPP 3D Academy from 5th-8th grade. My family and I decided that my goal of going to college in 2009 could be reached by attending YES Prep Southeast, where my brother went. College was very important for my family. It was especially so for me since I was going to be the first woman in my family to attend a higher-education institution.
I enjoyed my experience at YES because of the lasting impact my teachers had on me. In 9th and 10th grade, I had the honor of working with Ms. Dave and Ms. Hernandez to fundraise for our service trips to Puerto Rico and Ecuador. I remember this because they worked every day teaching English and Spanish and helped us fundraise $2,000 each outside of school.
Mr. Green was one of my favorite teachers too; he taught me economics my senior year of high school. I remember staying a few times because the material captivated my interest but I struggled with understanding it. He would let my friend and I work on homework in his office and wait until we finished our work. He never said “no,” even if he had to do other work. Thank you for that, Mr. Green.
Mr. Udoewa, or Prince Uduowa as some of us knew him, was one of the most amazing math teachers I had at YES. This was not because he taught my favorite subject– geometry– but because one day, I told him I was worried about what I wanted to do with my life. When he asked what I thought I wanted to do, I responded, “I want to be an architect, and maybe a doctor, a teacher, a chef!” He said: “So what are you worried about?” And I told him that I didn’t know how to choose. His response was simple: “Why don’t you do all of it?” I looked at him with confusion, but he explained to me that it was possible to do all the things I wanted to. He shared his own story of working at NASA, helping Ashanti record her music, and singing Opera at the Wortham Theater Center. Little did I know that 7 years later, Mr. Udoewa would fly from London to the United States to attend my graduation at Grinnell College. Thank you, Mr. Udoewa, for believing in me even when I doubted myself.
My list of amazing YES Prep teachers continues: Ms. Rayburn, Mr. Deroisers, Mr. Martinez, Ms. Villanueva, Mr. Spurgeon, Ms. Blanco-Lajara, and so on. Thanks to each one of you for everything you did for me.
Due to all the work I did with my teachers’ support, I was accepted to six colleges and universities across the nation and received a scholarship from Comcast. I attended Grinnell College as an IMPACT scholar, earning nearly a full ride to school. I grew up in a low-income family so paying for college was not something that my family was ready for. I will be forever grateful to YES Prep for providing me with the support I needed to continue my education in college.
My incredible teachers are also the reason why I came back to YES Prep. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I decided to join YES Prep because I wanted to challenge students so they would be better prepared for college. For two years, I taught 8th grade Math and Algebra I at Brays Oaks. I’m currently in my fourth year of teaching Algebra I and am serving as the 9th Grade Level Chair at East End. I know there are days the students dislike me, but I also know, someday, they will be standing up somewhere in the world and have the opportunity to push others forward. They will look back to say, “Thank you.”