DeSales Graduating Student Already Changing Lives
For Aurea Ortiz, '06, graduating from DeSales University with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies on Sat., May 20, is part of a wonderful journey that is already underway. Ortiz started impacting the lives of at-risk children in Allentown, even before completing her self-designed program focusing on youth program development and counseling.
"As a teacher, mentor, and counselor, my goal is to be a positive role model for each and every student. I am careful not to judge them, but to try and carefully open their eyes and minds, so they can discover and understand how valuable they are to our society," said Ortiz. "I want them to make the best choices in life and become lifelong learners."
Ortiz, who is enrolled in ACCESS, the adult education program at DeSales, helped establish the CADA (Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse) Youth Program for at-risk children in Allentown, in June 2005. Her goal was to help children who live in areas of high crime, by providing them with a place to go after school and during summers. The new initiative was made possible through the Weed and Seed Program in Allentown, with funding provided by DEFY (Drug Education For Youth), a federal program through the U.S. Navy.
The youth program provides tutoring, fun activities, and services. Children also have the opportunity to do productive things for the community. Currently, there are 30 children age 8 through 14 in the program, with more males than females, and predominantly Hispanic and black. She has found the experience to be among the most rewarding in her life.
"The best part about this job is seeing the children do something that they thought they couldn't do before," said Ortiz.
A resident of Bethlehem, Ortiz came to the Lehigh Valley from Puerto Rico in 1994, looking for better opportunities for her family, particularly, for a son with learning disabilities. It proved to be a good move. Thanks to the help and guidance made available to him through his school district, he was able to overcome certain disabilities and now will be graduating from Freedom High School, with plans to attend Northampton Community College.
"My son was my inspiration," said Ortiz. "I saw what first-class instruction and mentoring can do for a person and I realized that I wanted to change fields."
While still in Puerto Rico, Ortiz had pursued a career in the hospitality industry and attended hotel management school. Once she came to the United States, her experience with her son resulted in an interest in the special education field and prompted her to change careers.
Prior to her work with the CADA Youth Program, she worked as a teacher's assistant in special education at Southern Lehigh. She also worked as an assistant teacher, mini-campus instructor and parent liaison with Millersville University's migrant education programs, during the summers from 1997 to 2004. In her role, she interacted with parents, helping them with translation issues and providing other assistance, as needed.
Press Release: DeSales Graduating Student Already Changing Lives | Posted on: 5/19/2006
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu