Jennifer has been a trailblazer since the day two teachers knocked on the door of her parents’ home and recruited her to join the very first class at Nativity Prep Academy. She is a shining example of how our mission transforms lives. Fourteen years after graduating from Nativity Prep, she can be proud that she graduated college, landed a great job and gives back to her community.
The Journey Begins at Nativity Prep
Jennifer entered Nativity Prep a few grades below her class level academically, but she was motivated, bright and had the support of passionate teachers. Jennifer remembers, “Teachers were literally by my side all day, every day, coaching me along for three straight years. I received one-on-one attention that I would not have had at my local public school.” She adds, “In the early days of Nativity Prep, we were at school from 7:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and were provided three meals a day, dinners being home cooked by the teachers.” Jennifer, motivated by her intellectual curiosity and ambition, not only caught up to her grade level by the time she graduated from Nativity Prep, but vaulted ahead. She took full advantage of everything the school had to offer, including regular field trips. “We had field trips every few weeks, which exposed me to so much culture that I wouldn’t have had outside of school,” Jennifer shares, “I felt like I was discovering this whole new world.”
Our Lady of Peace: A New Adventure
Thanks to her high grades and the support of Nativity’s benefactors, Jennifer received a scholarship to Our Lady of Peace High School, also simply known as “OLP.” “It was difficult transition for me socially because I was the first person from Nativity Prep to attend OLP, and my background was different than the rest of my OLP classmates,” Jennifer remembers, “After summer break my freshman year, many of the OLP students came back talking about their European and Hawaiian vacations; a reality I wasn’t familiar with. But for whatever reason, instead of being jealous, something clicked. It motivated me. I told myself, if I work hard in school, I too can go on awesome vacations someday.” In order to stay ahead academically, Jennifer workedwith Nativity Prep staff and volunteers regularly to receive tutoring and other support throughout her high school years. This program is a part of Nativity Prep’s unique 11+ year commitment that extends well beyond middle school graduation. Kathleen Hickey, Jennifer’s volunteer math tutor shared, “Jennifer had the best attitude about school and life. She was willing to put in the hard work to succeed in school, but she was also willing to use her personal time to tutor the middle school students.”
“Teachers were literally by my side all day, every day, coaching me along for three years.”
Jennifer’s highlights at OLP included “the tight sisterhood of my classmates, performing in a host of shows as part of the theatre program, and learning French.” She adds, “OLP’s curriculum was challenging, but I knew it was setting me up for success in college.” When the 2007 recession hit, Jennifer’s father lost his job in construction. Household finances had always been tight, and due to the high cost of living in San Diego, their future was in jeopardy. “During that period of my life, I felt like I was walking in a dark tunnel, trusting there was a light at the end.” However, seeing her progress and potential, the idea of “breaking the cycle of poverty through education” was a goal she and her family committed to. Thanks to the support of her parents and the encouragement of the Nativity Prep community, Jennifer was able to weather the storm and continue on to college.
College: Class of ‘15 with a Double Major
Jennifer’s goal of attending San Diego State became a reality when in 2009 she packed her bags and moved into her freshman dorm room. “I didn’t want to ask my parents for financial help, so I applied for and earned scholarships and financial aid, and took out loans for the rest,” Jennifer shared, “Though living on campus was a great experience, I decided to save money and commute from home my remaining time at SDSU.” While at SDSU, Jennifer double majored in Business Administration with a concentration in Management, and Spanish with a concentration in Translation and Interpretation. “The rigorous curriculum and high expectations at OLP and Nativity Prep made college almost feel easy. I was able to excel in my classes while holding down a job as the front desk admin at Nativity Prep.” After reflecting on all of the support Jennifer received on her journey to college, she decided to become a mentor for a Nativity Prep middle school student. (Years later, Jennifer celebrated with her mentee after she proudly graduated from The Bishop’s School and earned an academic scholarship to The University of Southern California where she now studies pre-law.) During Jennifer’s junior year she studied abroad in Germany, where she interned with two startup companies. “It was an amazing experience learning how companies operate, and the experience got me excited to someday join an exciting company with a great culture.” Five years after entering San Diego State, Jennifer realized her dream, becoming the first generation in her family to graduate college.
Beyond College and Into a Career
Though she expressed interest in coming back to work at Nativity Prep after graduating from SDSU, the staff encouraged Jennifer to “spread her wings” and start a career that took advantage of all that she had studied. It didn’t take long for Jennifer to get hired by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a company that offered her the experience and culture she was looking for. For the first two years of her career, Jennifer worked in SDG&E’s skills training center. In May 2018, Jennifer accepted a promotion as an Energy Services Specialist, where she works directly with customers. Jennifer remains involved with Nativity Prep as both a mentor and an ambassador for the school. Her second middle school mentee is now an eleventh grader at E3 Civic High School. Jennifer has also participated in a number of speaking engagements on behalf of Nativity Prep.
The Future is Bright
The dream Jennifer had of one day being able to take vacations to different places started coming true in the summer of 2013 when she went to Europe for the first time. Since then, she has visited more than twelve countries, and is headed back to Europe this May. As a member of Nativity Prep’s community, we invite you to join us in celebrating Jennifer’s success. We could not be prouder of the success you have achieved and your contributions to society.