by Alicia Dickson
A few months ago, running into Target after work was a normal activity for me; I had no idea that a trip to Target would change my life. I remember standing in line behind a man who was wearing a YES Prep t-shirt and buying supplies for his class. “I’m a science teacher,” he announced to the cashier. I was surprised by how excited he was to talk about his job with a stranger. I could tell he must love it.
About a week later, I was sitting in my office and staring at my screen. There I was, a top performer at a lucrative oil and gas company in Houston. I had worked hard to obtain the position and, yet, I was just completing tasks to get the job done. There was no heart behind the actions and there was no drive to do more or become better. If I stayed where I was, I would probably get a promotion within the next year or two, but was a promotion the equivalent of professional growth?
I spent time thinking about what would make me happy. I desired to work for a company whose values were similar to my own values, so I could be a part of something larger than making a company rich. I also wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and propel myself forward professionally. No matter what, I needed to make a difference in my community. I remember closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and that science teacher popped into my head. He looked so proud of his workplace. I wanted that.
The very next day, I researched YES Prep Public Schools. I learned that I went to a high school about two blocks from YES Prep’s East End campus. My school did not push students to attend college; I made it because I was fortunate enough to have a mother who instilled in me the importance of a college education. I wanted to work to make college a question of “where” rather than “if” for students in that community. This desire perfectly aligned with YES Prep’s focus on preparing underserved students for collegiate success. So I applied for a position at YES Prep and haven’t looked back.
Even though I am new to the district, I have learned more in my three months at the East End campus than I learned in my two years with my prior employer. I am being pushed to reach further and to accomplish more. I receive constant and consistent feedback from team members on campus. I come to work every day with a smile on my face, and I make sure to let each of my students know how important, special, and loved they are. I now feel like that bubbly science teacher who can proudly tell the Target cashier, “I am a teacher.”
Alicia Dickson is a graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown (BS, 2013), Ashford University (MBA, 2015), and a current doctoral student. She is a new educator who is excited about working within a community that she holds close to her heart.