5 for 5 Spotlight: Alexandra Arroyo, Michael Buck, Ashleigh Fritz, Oscar Romano, & Aaron Simmons

In our Five for Five series, we spotlight YES Prep staff members who have committed five or more years to YES Prep. For more, read about YES Prep’s Commit to Five program.

Alexandra Arroyo has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently serves as the Director of Talent Development.

Alexandra Arroyo

Favorite memory: There was a group of students that I taught at Patrick Henry Middle School in HISD that transferred to YES Prep North Central in 9th grade the same year I started working at YES Prep. The day they graduated from North Central will be a day I never forget. They are my reminders that our mission is necessary and possible to achieve. One even teaches at YES Prep North Central now.

Why YES Prep: I started working at YES Prep because I saw how the entire staff was aligned and working towards one clear mission– that every student will graduate from college prepared to lead. I stay at YES Prep because I know that we are not only taking incredible strides to live out our mission, but also our innovation in doing so is helping other charters and school districts do the same.

Michael Buck has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as the Director of Social Studies.

Mike Buck

Favorite memory: In my first year at YES Prep, I was the World Geography teacher at Southeast. My wife went into labor with our first (of four!) children, and while in the hospital, my 2nd period students all huddled around an iPhone to Facetime me and send their support and congratulations. While my wife wasn’t excited about it at the time, this showed me just how “family-oriented” we are as an organization.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I was really inspired by the mission, and I have continued to stay with YES Prep because of the people I am privileged to work with, and because of their incredible commitment to students. Our Social Studies program has continued to develop over the past several years such that our students have achieved impressive results on AP Social Studies exams. Last year, Hispanic students at YES Prep who took the AP World History and AP Government exams accounted for almost two percent of all Hispanic students across the entire state of Texas who earned qualifying scores. I feel privileged and humbled to be a part of a department of people who have devoted their lives to empowering the next generation of civil leaders, historians, and social scientists.

Ashleigh Fritz has worked at YES Prep for 9 years. She currently serves as the School Director of YES Prep Southside.

Ashleigh Fritz

Favorite memory: My favorite memory and greatest professional accomplishment (thus far) is seeing the Class of 2016 all the way through 12th grade. I am a founding staff member and started with that group as one of their 6th grade math teachers. Over their seven years, I experienced them growing into young adults and they, too, experienced me growing into a leader. It’s like we grew up together. To see who they were when they entered YES Prep and who they were as they entered their next stage in life was priceless, and I am forever grateful for that opportunity. On Senior Signing day on Tuesday, May 16, 2016, I had the distinct honor as School Director to call their names as they declared their college of intent. In that moment, I knew all the sacrifices were worth it.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES because I wanted to work in an environment where it wasn’t just about the four walls in the classroom, but instead the four walls of the school. I wanted to be in a school where we were expected (and praised) for living the motto of “whatever it takes” and “100% every day.” I even brought over two members of the Class of 2016 with me. I taught them in fifth grade, was hired with YES in May and begged their parents to send them to a school that didn’t have a building yet. I fell in love with YES Prep, the mission, the students, and the hardworking colleagues in my first year. I stayed at West for eight years because once upon a time, I sat across the table from those students and told them (and their parents) to stay. I told them YES was best for them and it wouldn’t be in the best interest, long-term, to leave. If I expected them to stay, how could I not? I continue at YES because there’s still work to do and communities to serve. It is a privilege to work alongside my colleagues at Southside to provide the education our students in the Third Ward deserve. I’m humbled to serve alongside leaders that admit when decisions made weren’t the best and who are committed to rectifying the past. I stay because I know there is more of me to give and I believe in YES Prep.

Oscar Romano has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. He currently serves as the School Director of YES Prep Gulfton.

Oscar Romano

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories at YES Prep occurred two years ago when I was a High School Dean of Students. A student walked into my office to ask me a question and proudly stated that it was his first time in my office all year. He was in and out of my office for 4+ years and I called home about his behavior almost every week. That moment was powerful for me because it helped reinforce the fact that we need to give our best every day for all our students. It may not seem like it in the moment, but the gains will arrive if we’re persistent with our actions.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I saw the power of an entire system aligned on providing all students with a college-ready education. I stay because I believe in our work and want to be a part of realizing our vision to ensure every student in Houston has access to a high quality education.

Aaron Simmons has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. He currently serves as the Assistant School Director of YES Prep East End.

Aaron Simmons

Favorite memory: My favorite memories are when students that I taught step up to be leaders. The class of 2012 at Southeast stepped up and created the Fall FiYESta which has become a tradition at SE.  The Student Council created a winter time celebration, Winter Wonderland, and established that tradition at West, which was a privilege to be a part of.  My favorite example is seeing kids who I taught graduate from college and give back to their communities in the classroom.  It is so great to see the YES Prep mission come full circle.

Why YES Prep: After working for an after-school, non-profit organization while in college, I knew that I wanted to get into education. When Emilee (on her 11th year at SE) and I moved back to Houston, we heard about YES through a friend. I became a full-time substitute at SE teaching 8th grade science. The students were the reason why I stuck around – no matter how hard of a time they gave me.  I knew that this is where I wanted to be. As the years have gone by, and I have worked in leadership positions, it is the people that I have the privilege to work with every day and see their impact on students that inspires and motivates me.

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