By Noel Colon
Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy, Humanities Educator
My journey to become an Aspire teacher started with seeing my mom Lourdes in her classroom at Aspire Rosa Parks Academy when I was in elementary school. My mom earned both her BA and MA while raising me by herself and working full-time at Aspire, and she set an example for me that anything is possible with effort, commitment, support and love.
I attended Aspire Rosa Parks Academy in fifth grade and when Aspire opened a new 6-12 school called Aspire Langston Hughes Academy, I enrolled in the founding class. As the oldest kids in a small school, my classmates and I formed a family and took leadership roles in creating fun school traditions like prom, homecoming, and more. When Langston Hughes’ sports had away games, the whole school would make posters and carpool together to cheer on our team. Aspire Langston Hughes had a unique schedule where we took high school classes in the morning and community college classes in the afternoon, so I was well prepared to go on to San Jose State University (SJSU) when I graduated in 2013.
Throughout my time at San Jose State, I stayed connected to my school family at Aspire Langston Hughes. I came back to the school every summer to tutor students attending summer school and to work in the office. During the school year, I mentored the Aspire Langston Hughes LGTBQ club and coordinated trips for kids from Stockton to visit SJSU. I loved showing the younger students from Aspire Langston Hughes a glimpse of the college experience so they too could see themselves attending college. When I graduated from my Masters program at the University of the Pacific in 2018, my friends from Aspire Langston Hughes attended the commencement ceremony to help celebrate this milestone in my life.
With my family background in education, teaching was a natural career choice after college. I applied to the Aspire teaching residency and was lucky to be matched with a mentor who had grown up near me in Stockton and was also from an immigrant family. My Aspire Stockton mentor ignited my passion for social justice because we had a shared understanding of the unique challenges facing immigrant families from low-income neighborhoods. For my Aspire residency, I ended up in a school in Stockton where one of my former Aspire Langston Hughes teachers was the principal. I felt like my life came full circle.
Now that I’m in my third year of teaching, I can look back at the 16 years I’ve been involved with Aspire Public Schools and see how the organization has influenced the trajectory of my life and that of my whole family. Some of my younger cousins who attended Aspire Stockton schools have already graduated from college, while others are enlisted in the military or attending community college. They are all on different paths, but they share a common motivation to succeed and give back to their community. At my Aspire school, I am surrounded by teachers who are committed to giving all our students a fighting chance for their future, regardless of their income, language, immigration status, learning differences, or sexual orientation. I hope I can inspire my students to go after their goals, bolstered by the knowledge that, like my mom, I will never give up on them.