Mariell David

San Juan Sunrise Tech Center & Creekside Adult Center

Nominated in 2024

David “She just got off the boat. Literally, she just got here from the Philippines, just off the boat, and we came here.” That statement by a student’s aunt was my first introduction to Mariell David. She was a tiny and timid 18 year old when she arrived at her San Juan Adult Education GED Orientation. After meeting her and noting her CASAS score, I asked the HSE director what the best path forward might be for Mariell. I mused that our stellar ESL program would gently support her adjustments to life here and also lead her through English basics to prepare her for GED study. My director said, “Let’s let her try GED. She may want the ESL or she may be fine in GED Prep. Wait and see.” I was cautious. I always want to see students succeed - a gain here, a success there - until the goal is reached. I don’t like to consider experiencing failure or set-backs. But I am learning that struggle has its beauty. Mariell told me recently about her life and being an immigrant from the Philippines. “I lived a different life in my homeland and adjusting my schedule in academics is something that I found challenging, but I know adapting is an essential part of my growth. I learned and am still learning to manage my time wisely, needing to discipline myself constantly to meet my goal. The time is running, not just walking. Experiencing these new obstacles was a culture shock but I was able to persevere with assistance and support from my family, but I’m still aware that I am the one in control of my life. Although my family played a big part, I was still the one to overcome my personal challenges. Honestly, I didn't even expect that I would make it this far but I did it. I never imagined that I would get through all of that.” Mariell spoke honestly of the homesickness, loneliness and the depression that she experienced. She said she was almost paralyzed by it. Mariell told me, “Here I need to somehow be independent and stable enough at the age of 18. I experienced too many emotions to the point that I got overwhelmed, but luckily my family did not leave me. Instead they help me stand up to fight homesickness. There are times that I get depressed facing external and internal challenges in my life. I feel alone in my journey and sometimes I struggle grasping my reality, my mind tends to wander so sometimes I’m not fully present.” Nevertheless, she would come into the zoom classroom and put on a cheerful face. She was always greeted warmly by her classmates. Our GED Prep classes are a mix of cultures, heritage, and languages - and ages. Most of the time Mariell was the youngest in the class. Yet, her influence grew as she came to trust and value others as participants. Mariell said, “I learned a lot, not just from the lessons and drills but also to those quotes we shared as students. In our experience in brainstorming our knowledge, different perspectives, discipline and being consistent to meet our goal I learned to balance actions to our words. I learned those things that made me who I am right now. I have a purpose here that can pave a way for my future and the future of my loved ones. And that is my goal to be here and pursue my dreams in a realistic way. My first step on that goal is to improve my knowledge and finish GED, which I accomplished. Next is to help myself adjust to the lifestyle and go after higher education. It's your own choice because you’re the author of your story. You’ll always have a choice at the end of the day. But make an exception and think about the consequences of the decisions that you make.” I do not know how each of my students grasps and manipulates information for it to become their learned and personal knowledge. I like to vary the curriculum to encourage them to recognize the delight of learning. Mariell took all this to heart. When the assignment was to write down learning styles and study strategies, she did so eagerly. Then she shared a powerpoint with me that she had created to fulfill the assignment! I asked if she would present it to the class, and she agreed (hesitantly, but with excitement). It was a powerful tool for the class to see and discuss. Some months later I asked Mariell to present to a new set of students. Mariell’s willingness to lead and serve her classmates was humble and kind. A fun event occurred at one zoom meeting when we saw a framed picture over her study desk. When asked about it, Mariell took it down from the wall and moved it close to the camera. That was when we saw she had written inspirational quotes on post-a-notes and set them into the frame like a quilt! It was fabulous and colorful. I posted a picture of her with her “quilt” on the class Canvas page for all to enjoy. Setting aside her shyness, Mariell was also willing to help me zoom co-host. She watched and learned from other co-hosts who made sure everyone signed in. She also alerted me to comments and questions other students posted in the chat box. When re-reading the Chat Box after a class I would see how Mariell encouraged respect for other student’s comments - a tremendous boost to group interactions. One by one, Mariell passed the four GED tests to earn her California state high school equivalency certification. That was the time of a true jubilee! She was done by December 2024. I asked her to describe her educational process. She listed things that helped her grow: “I learned about Growth Mindset and how it works. It’s about understanding and accepting what you have. I remember watching the GM video and someone said that the more curious you are in trying to figure out the answer on your own the more neurons are adding up in your brain, which is called neuroplasticity. I remember going to the zoom class with Mrs. Lois and my classmates. Sharing different thoughts and perspectives about the quotes that Mrs. Lois gave. Those thoughts would sink into me, and i hear them say, “No pain, no gain,” “Turning negative thoughts to positive,” “Change weakness into strength” and so on. Failure is not fatal and it is not final. It doesn’t define you but helps you to learn lessons from your own mistakes. F.A.I.L. means First Attempt In Learning. E.N.D. means Efforts Never Die. Learn the step by step process to be independent and don’t always depend on the help of others. For instance, not all the time you will depend on others, everything has an ending. Some are leaving and that's the reality that we all need to accept. In addition I even try different types of strategies in learning by figuring out first my learning style. My learning is mostly these three which are visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning styles. However, it depends on you as a learner if you are physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually healthy. I also tried to do some mind mapping and powerpoint presentations and presented it to the class. In addition I even watched the GED crash course videos and searched YouTube pages about the GED test. “On top of all of that the strongest motivation I have was God, myself and my family. Those people I love and love me for who I am. Through my ups and down they never leave me behind. As for now that I have finished my GED, I’m still looking for a job. “I had a problem getting my enrollment for college so I transferred to this coming Fall Semester. By the way, the course that I chose was English- teaching. I might pursue teaching too. I have a lot to pursue but the big one is to be stable and independent enough. I'm still helping myself and adjusting to the environment that I have now. I am prioritizing my mental health, because I know that it affects me doing my own thing that will help me grow.” As her last word on being nominated for the Students Succeed honor, Mariell said, “It is easy to say that I will make it yet, hard to do. One of my best friends says that the meaning of success is achieving the result of all of the efforts and sacrifices that you gave to something that you are worthy of achieving. It's not just being on the top. It’s the progress, improvement, achievements and happiness of yourself on your accomplishment, something that is worth waiting for.” I am grateful I had Mariell in my GED Prep class. Was she ready right off the boat? She grew, she shined, she sailed. And her magnificent journey continues. The process, and Mariell, is beautiful. [Multiple photos are available, but refuse download at this time. They will be sent on]
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