Monthly Archives: November 2016

High school valedictorians 2016

When Miguel Diaz was 7 years old, he moved with his family from Puerto Rico to the U.S. He spoke only Spanish and was taught in a bilingual classroom for two years. But by fourth grade, his lessons were entirely in English — and, in 2016, he delivered the valedictory speech at the graduation ceremony for Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport, Conn. Today, Diaz is a talented, hard-working member of Southern’s Class of 2020 — on track to become the first in his family to earn a four-year college degree.

A fellow member of the Class of 2020, Kyley Fiondella — the valedictorian of H. C. Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden, Conn. — shares his commitment. “I’m also a first-generation college student,” she says. “My parents have always been very driven. ‘Do your best in school. Go to college. Make your life better,’ they told me. It was a big motivation.”

Fiondella — a student in Southern’s Honors College — has wanted to be a nurse since childhood. She enrolled in her high school’s Health Technology Program and, at the age of 15, became a certified nursing assistant. Today, she works at Montowese Health and Rehabilitation in North Haven, in addition to answering phones at a pizzeria and attending school full time. With her pre-acceptance into Southern’s Nursing Program, she moves one step closer to realizing her dream. “I almost cried when I received the letter,” says Fiondella, who hopes to work in pediatrics.

Diaz also plans to work with youth — as a high school Spanish teacher. It’s an aspirational shift for the polite young man who, until recently, envisioned a career in automotive technology. “My parents are my mentors,” he says of his father, a janitor at another nearby university, and his mother, who cares for children for a living. “They left Puerto Rico in search of more opportunities,” Diaz explains. “They inspired me to get an education.”

In high school, Diaz interned at BMW. Today, the full-time student helps finance his education by working 30 hours a week at Pep Boys, an auto parts and services retailer. Automobile technology remains a strong interest, and he speaks with pride of his brother who attended Gateway Community College and works at Nissan.

But for Diaz, the promise of a teaching career has taken hold. “I grew up in a low-income community. Some of my friends weren’t focusing on their studies, especially in middle school. They would get in a lot of trouble, surrounded by violence and negative influences,” says Diaz. “As a teacher, you support students — give advice and help them to keep moving forward. Education is the key to success.”

 

Kyley Fiondella, Class of 2020

On her High School Valedictory Speech

“It went well. I’ve always been super-nervous when speaking in front of people — but I’ve also been pretty good at hiding it. . . . My main message was about the importance of finding your passion, and then, if possible, following through and turning it into a career.”

The Road to Southern

“During my application process, I decided that Southern was my first choice, primarily because I am extremely close with my family and wanted to study close to home. I also have a job and volunteer with my church, which I didn’t want to give up. I was able to keep doing all the things I loved and still go to a great school.”

Best Part of Being an Owl

“I like all of the activities. It’s so easy to get involved. Southern really focuses on student involvement.”

Well Rounded

On campus, she’s joined the Intervarsity Southern Christian Fellowship and the Program Council, which organizes entertainment and educational activities for students and the community. She also is active at her church, serving as a teen leader and a lead singer.

Advice to Students

“Find the reason behind what you’re doing . . . something that motivates you. Then all of the hard work — the studying, the note taking, the homework — becomes easier.”

 

Miguel Diaz, Class of 2020

On his High School Valedictory Speech

“In the beginning of the speech, I was really nervous. But as I went on, I felt more comfortable. It was basically inspirational . . . to keep moving forward. You never know what you’ll be able to accomplish in life.”

The Road to Southern

“I wanted to major in Spanish secondary education, and I heard that Southern was a great school for teachers. It also was close to me, and I wanted to commute.”

He’s looking forward to ____________:

“Joining a club or organization at Southern . . . perhaps, OLAS [Organization of Latin American Students].”  He also is active at his church, serving as a teen leader, and playing guitar and piano.

Advice to Students

“I would say to really focus on school. In the end it will definitely pay off — and always remember that you can do more than you think can.”

The grandest of all, Buckingham Palace.

London is one of the world’s great cities, so it was a must for us to plan a trip down to see it while we’re here. On Friday night after we all had finished our classes, we took a two and a half hour train ride from Liverpool’s Lime Street Station to London’s Euston Station. From there, it was only a short walk to the hostel we were staying at. The great thing about studying in Europe is that if you take advantage of the public transportation and hostels, it is much more affordable to travel around than it is to travel from the United States, and the semester affords you plenty of opportunities to do so.

Despite the fact that Liverpool and London are both UK cities, they each have a completely unique character. Liverpool is a diverse port city, but London is the most diverse city in the world. Liverpool has a compact and easily navigable city center, while London has a larger land area than Los Angeles, and as many people as New York City. Liverpool has a history to be proud of, but London’s history is the history of the Western World; from its settlement by the Romans in the year 43 all the way up to today where it is still a center for culture, finance, and politics. We wanted to take in as much of this history as we possibly could in the 3 days we had available to us.

On Saturday morning, we woke bright and early to take advantage of the free walking tour that our hostel provided. This tour was entertaining, informative, and good exercise, as it lasted nearly 3 hours and covered all of the major tourist attractions in London. We saw several palaces including the grandest of them all, Buckingham Palace, home of her majesty the Queen. We also saw the Elizabeth Tower (home of Big Ben, which is actually the bell in the tower and not the tower or the clock itself), the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, King’s Cross Station (where Harry Potter departs for Hogwarts from platform 9 ¾), and the River Thames.

After the tour ended, we continued on our own to see the Shard (the tallest building in the UK), the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the London Eye. All-in-all, it was a busy and interesting day, filled with equal parts history and beautiful architecture.

On Sunday, having seen all of the major attractions, we decided to venture into some other areas of town. First, we went to Camden Market, a massive area of open air vendors selling all kinds of goods from intricate lamps to sweatshirts to foods from all over the world. After we spent a couple of hours there, we set out to find Abbey Road, home of the studio where The Beatles recorded many albums and the famous crosswalk which graced the cover of one of those albums. This was a bit out of the way, but it allowed us the opportunity to take a double decker bus and see many of the more residential and less touristy parts of the city. It also allowed us a great vantage point from which to see some of the many sports and luxury cars that Londoners drive around—from Lamborghinis and Ferraris to Aston Martins and Rolls Royces.

Later that night, my flatmates took a train back to Liverpool, but I stayed for one more night to catch a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. This venue was by far the nicest I’ve ever been in, and it is another wonderful example of the gorgeous architecture that London has to offer. Before the show, I spent a few hours in the Kensington and Chelsea Library doing my reading for the next day’s classes, and another hour or so enjoying the view of a rainbow from Hyde Park. All in all, it was a perfect way to end a wonderful trip. In those three days, I realized that London lives up to its reputation as a great city, but I also realized how much I appreciate Liverpool. When I got off the train back in Liverpool in the relative quiet of the early morning, I at once felt comfortable and at home. The streets of Liverpool are familiar to me, and I feel like I belong there, away from the hustle and bustle of a 24-hour city like London.