February 04, 2019

When Leonel Mejia was researching colleges, a meeting with Yessica Santana,  Latino Student Services Coordinator at Century College’s Multicultural Center, made all the difference in his decision to attend Century College.  He was hesitant about taking his English as a Second Language (ESOL) test, and Yessica encouraged him not to overthink the process, but to take the test that day.  He followed her advice, and he passed the test. Yessica’s encouragement and support made a positive impression on Leonel.

“The staff and faculty are always helpful and open-minded.  Student life is very active here,”  Leonel remembers.  “I was shy before coming to Century College and I grew a lot when I was here.  I saw my own potential.”

Leonel planned to go into social work initially, but realized he could make a greater difference in the Latino community if he chose education as his career path.  He thought about secondary education, but decided to focus on elementary education instead.

“To solve the achievement gap is very difficult because there are a lot of issues that influence it, including disparities in housing, food, health, law, for example,” Leonel says. “I decided to become an elementary teacher to make children feel comfortable in school even if they face problems at home.  I view education as a social justice job.” Leonel successfully transferred to Metropolitan State University where he will graduate with his B.S. degree in Education.

At Century College, Leonel found the support and encouragement he needed to meet his career and life goals.  He learned how to network and to advocate for himself.  ”You have to take responsibility for yourself and find resources to help you get ahead,” Leonel notes.  “And there are many amazing teachers at Century College who pushed me to do my best, including Amy Fladeboe, Kate Herrold, Susannah Dolance, Andrea Coffey, Christina Davis—all of whom were very helpful.” 

Additionally, the Century College Foundation provided scholarship support for Leonel. 

“If I have problems or challenges, I always come back to Century.  I feel safe here. I feel at home here.  In my free time before classes, I always came to school early.” Leonel says. ”And now I know I can give more to my community–I can make a difference in children’s lives.” 

Christina Davis, Chair of Century College’s Education Department, agrees that Leonel will make a difference, “Leonel brought students together.  His open mindedness, his calm demeanor, and his desire to connect people was all for the greater good of the Century College community.  He leads by example.  If Leonel was involved, we all wanted to be involved!  What an impact he will make transforming the lives of future generations in his chosen career as an educator.”


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