Like others coming from Mexico, my parents crossed the border looking for a better life for their family. When I was around five years old, they were able to send for me and my older sister. We grew up in Spring Branch and I graduated from Northbrook High School. To this day, I still live in this area and love what a close knit community it is.
BEATING THE ODDS
After high school, I decided to stay home and attend college, mainly out of necessity. I was a teen parent but I did not let that define me. I decided to use this reality as a motivator and focus my energy in pursuing my degree. My dad said, “don’t be a statistic” and I did not. I became the first one in my family to complete high school and pursue a higher education.
I attended the University of Houston-Downtown where I earned a degree in Criminal Justice and later attended the University of Houston for my graduate degree in Educational Psychology. I made the Dean’s List my second year in college. The first year was an adjustment period for me – balancing being a parent, working, and attending school. At this point in my life, I truly understood why my parents focused so much on my sister and I going to college. Life without a higher education isn’t easy. The jobs I qualified for without my degree were laborious and I felt employees were seen as machines.
Originally I wanted to be a prosecuting attorney and thought going the Criminal Justice route was a great foundation to that profession. My very first job was as a case manager at a federally-contracted halfway house, where I worked for over a year. It was literally the scariest job I ever had, but I also turned out to be a great experience I could not have obtained anywhere elsewhere. Not only was I responsible for 57 federal inmates, I also traveled to federal prisons presenting on the rules and regulations of the halfway house.
I slowly started to realize that maybe there was more to just prosecuting people through the criminal justice system. I decided to move on to juvenile and adult probation, trying to find the right career path for me. After a few years I came to realize that being an attorney was no longer my goal. I wanted to help people before they got into the criminal justice system. I then found an almost-perfect job as a Dropout Prevention Facilitator with a local school district. I worked with at-risk youth and remained in that position for ten years. However, I felt it still wasn’t what I was looking for, so I decided to go back to school in order to become a licensed counselor.
NEW PATH AT YES PREP
Today, I find myself in one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve had, as a Student Support Counselor (SSC) at YES Prep Hoffman, where I have been since 2016. I had always heard great things about YES and wanted to be a part of the greatness. The selection process was intense but I made it! At YES, I am held to the highest standards and I embrace the challenge. I love helping students and my community. Through SSC, I look after the social and emotional well-being of our students. This job has its rewards, as well as its hardships, but I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with these families and be a part of their journey to academic success.
One of my main goals as SSC is getting the parent involved. Just like many of the families I meet with, I too grew up with Spanish-speaking only parents. Having become a parent at a young age, I feel my personal experience helps create an environment that’s judgement-free. I want families to know that I, and YES Prep, understand them and want what’s best for their children. But also reiterate that their children will always need them, the journey is a lot easier when you have parental support. Someone once told me, “I want to give you the advice and guidance I would want someone to give my child.” I hold myself to that expectation as well. While family dynamics are different for everyone, we are here to support all of our families, no matter what their situation is. And that’s why I love working at YES Prep and why I love my job.
About the Author
Yenit Jimenez, M.Ed., LPC-I, has worked at YES Prep since 2016. She is the Student Support Counselor at YES Prep Hoffman. Jimenez received a degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston-Downtown and a Master of Education in educational psychology from the University of Houston. Jimenez loves her job and enjoys the simple things in life like hanging out with family and friends. She also enjoys nature, a good book, and the simple things in life like having a good conversation.