In our 5 for 5 blog series, we highlight staff members for committing five or more years to YES Prep.
Michael Dies has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as High School Social Studies Content Specialist but will be teaching social studies full time at Southeast next year.
Why YES Prep? I started at YES Prep eight years ago because, after a year in my International Relations Ph.D. program, I realized that I enjoyed teaching more than conducting the research. I found the content I was studying in graduate school interesting (I still do), but it was hard to picture myself completely satisfied 20 to 30 years down the road still hacking away at applying formal modeling to problems of international conflict. I wanted something less theoretical and more tangible. I stay at YES Prep for two reasons. First, in the context of my teaching, I have been given the opportunity to build an AP Government program at Southeast, and I do not think there is any work in our society today that is more important than trying to promote civic education and engagement among high school seniors. Second, for almost my entire time at YES, I have been given the opportunity to be a leader within the Social Studies program and work with a team of people that is unparalleled in terms of their passion, effectiveness, and thoughtfulness. In a lot of ways, I have grown up professionally and personally alongside these people, and the pride I take in what we have built will be hard to match.
Favorite memory? One of the perks of teaching seniors is that you often hear from them once they have graduated from YES Prep and embarked upon the collegiate journey we spend seven years preparing them to take. Some of my fondest memories as an educator involve hearing from these students. When you receive messages about how they felt more prepared to write a research paper because of the work that they did in your class, or you hear stories about how they are engaging in political activism and carrying with them a few of the lessons you tried to teach them, there is nothing more satisfying. I am humbled to think that I potentially played even a small role in their educational experience.
David Holmes has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. He currently serves as 8th/9th Dean of Students at Northside.
Why YES Prep? I started at YES Prep because of the deep affinity I have for the Northside community. For several years after my stint as a TFA-Houston Corps Member, I continued as a 5th grade elementary school teacher at my placement school. The bug was put in me during this time to join YES by several friends; however, I kept dismissing the idea. After receiving a student recruitment email from Matt Neal that a Northside campus was opening up in the area, I thought the experience would not just be an impactful and life-changing opportunity for my students but also for myself. With that, 17 of my fifth grade students and I became founding members of the PRIDE (with one each also going to Fifth Ward, East End, and North Central). I stay not just to see this class of students walk across the Senior Signing Day stage (this year!), but to continue to try and build transformative relationships across both the overall Northside and YES Prep communities.
Favorite memory? A favorite memory is teaching PE in the parking lot of our campus during our founding year. With no gym nor large shared common space, Rebecca Thomas, Cindy Fowler, and I taught an entire grade level of students in gender cohorts each day. As we all had many other roles and responsibilities that year, the creativity used to keep 80+ students engaged for an hour at a time maximized our planning skills and efficiency, though none of us really knew what we were doing. Each day of class I hoped for nothing less than no scrapes, no drama, and no rain.
Melissa Lopez has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently serves as Operations Coordinator and Student Opportunities Coordinator at Fifth Ward.
Why YES? I started at YES Prep because, as an alumna, I know first-hand the amazing opportunities that being a student at YES can provide. I stay because of the amazing relationships I have formed with staff and students and because I now get to provide students with opportunities that change lives! This summer, I get to take five amazing students on a life-changing service-learning trip to Peru!
Favorite memory? As a founding staff member at Fifth Ward, this year has been full of wonderful emotions! Our founding class of sixth graders–students who I did home visits for– are ready to lead in college and beyond. It is truly incredible and rewarding to see the immense growth these kids have experienced and the amazing young adults they have become.
Marcela Rodriguez has worked at YES Prep for 9 years. She currently serves as Special Education Manager at West.
Why YES? I started working at YES Prep because I wanted to work with students who needed some extra love and support. As a YES Prep graduate, there were many times when being an ESL student made everything more challenging because the material was so rigorous. Luckily, I had amazing teachers by my side who helped me push through all my challenges. I want to provide that same level of care and support for my students. I want my students to know that I admire and appreciate their creativity, courage, resilience, and every single one of their inspiring abilities.
Favorite memory? My favorite memory is seeing the Learning Lab students of the Class of 2016, our first graduating class, walk across the stage at graduation. It was inspiring to see that even though these specific students had faced many challenges throughout their years at West, they were able to show endless resilience.
Stephanie Sosa has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. She currently serves as Operations Coordinator and Medical Assistant at Gulfton.
Why YES? I started at YES Prep after working two years at another charter school district. I was intrigued by the goal that all students– no matter their background– were accepted to a four-year college. The effort that staff put into helping all students think about college and applying when it’s time is incredible. I stay at YES because, as a minority, I was not given the opportunity to dream about going to college right after high school. I didn’t have the dedicated staff like you see at YES Prep to help me apply or try to make college happen.
Favorite memory? My favorite memory is my very first Senior Signing Day experience in 2011 at Rice University. The excitement of all the campuses and just the overall meaning of Senior Signing Day made it my favorite memory.
Donna Williams has worked at YES Prep for 12 years. She currently serves as Senior Accountant at the home office.
Why YES? I wanted to get into education and YES Prep has a great culture.
Favorite memory? My favorite memory is my first Senior Signing Day. Seeing students be the first in their families to go to college was really touching for me and still is 12 years later.