Those are the words of Monica Haydee Ramos, Student Success Coach at NLU — a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and a first-generation college student who earned her B.A. in Education and Human Development from the Universidad del Valle de Atemajac (UNIVA) before coming to Illinois eight years ago.
Monica joined the NLU community in 2008 as a master’s student and went on to earn her M.A. in Adult Education and Literacy from the University. During her studies she worked as a graduate assistant in NLU’s Latino Initiatives office, and it was there Monica said she first encountered mentorship, the leadership concept and opportunities for community engagement, which helped her to develop a stronger professional identity.
Now as Student Success Coach, Monica serves as liaison between support departments, faculty and students, and she’s growing even more opportunities to connect NLU with communities, schools and other education-focused organizations — through everything from speaking engagements and involvement on advisory boards to her work with the Chicago Teacher Partnership Program. Monica also recently traveled to Oxford, U.K., to present with the NLU team at the World Literacy Summit about a culturally responsive pedagogy trip to Mexico she organized for NLU education students.
It’s been a very busy year for Monica, but she took some time to talk about her work, including the impact of cultural immersion, the success coaching approach to preparing and supporting racially and ethnically diverse teacher candidates, and how the idea of empowerment through education guides it.
Talk about the CTPP.
The Chicago Teacher Partnership Program (CTPP) grant was awarded to a group of select Chicago universities [NLU, Loyola, Northeastern and the University of Illinois at Chicago] to prepare new teachers to work in high-need Chicago public elementary schools.
I work with the CTPP teacher candidates and Harrison Fellow Scholars to ensure student success, retention, persistence and graduation. I am responsible for setting, maintaining and enhancing goals associated with new teacher candidates for the CTPP program while upholding academic integrity. In addition, I am responsible for executing all elements of a proactive student engagement strategy, including — but not limited to — face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, e-mails and text messages. I promote active involvement in the community through extracurricular activities, in addition to providing opportunities to develop minority and first-generation college students’ self-efficacy, self- advocacy, leadership and professionalism.
You recently presented at the IACHE conference. How did it go?
My presentation at the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE) in March was very well received. The conference was hosted at Roosevelt University, and the presentation focused on the impact of cultural immersion and the student success coaching approach to prepare and support racially and ethnically diverse cohorts of teacher candidates from the Chicago Teacher Partnership Program. I was really pleased to see that many teacher candidates attended my presentation.
How was your experience at the World Literacy Summit in the U.K.?
At the World Literacy Summit, I co-presented with NLU’s Dr. Deborah O’Connor on the trip to Mexico a group of our CTPP teacher candidates took in November 2012. The presentation focused on the literacy experiences our teacher candidates had during this time, in addition to the cultural responsive experiences lived. Many students in the schools our teacher candidates will teach in come from Mexico or have parents who immigrated, and they face challenges of culture and language. We talked about these challenges and the importance of preparing and supporting student candidates’ cultural understanding and responsive pedagogy.
This opportunity was afforded to us as a result of my proposal to the Office of International Relations for the Secretary of Education in Jalisco, Mexico; the U.S. Department of Education’s International Affairs Office; and the Coordination of Educational Cooperation for Europe, Latin America and Casa Jalisco. A total of 10 students in NLU’s B.A. in Elementary Education program participated. It was a combination of cultural immersion, classroom observation and idea-sharing with peers at universities in Guadalajara.
You’re involved in a number of other local organizations. Could you talk about them?
I am very proud to be part of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), a national non-profit organization dedicated to the employment, development, and advancement of current and aspiring Latino professionals. I participate in the Women of HACE advisory board advocating for women’s leadership and empowerment. I assist in diverse events geared toward raising money for scholarships to help women take part in the Women of HACE leadership program. I also collaborate with the Women of HACE professional development board to provide mentorship to high-potential Latinas.
Additionally, I recently accepted the honor to sit at the board of Passages Educational Fund, a non-profit which assists non-FAFSA-eligible students to complete their college education. I like to participate in different events and various community organizations that empower Latinos and other underrepresented minorities. I enjoy community service and engagement because it makes me grow as a Latina, as a mother, as a professional, and it allows me to give back to a wonderful community.
What do you like best about working at NLU?
I like to work at NLU because I am able to fulfill my life’s mission: helping others through education and empowerment.