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Goldbacks give back! NFA Alumni speak to students about college experiences

Every Thursday, NFA West invites members of the community to share their story, describe their career path, and offer advice. This week, three NFA alumni and current students at Mont Saint Mary College discussed their transition from high school to college, the application process, and overall advice. Following this panel, a handful of NFA West students will travel to Mount Saint Mary College each week for mentoring sessions with college students.

The NFA West mentoring program with Mount Saint Mary College has been coordinated by Ms. Lakeya Stukes, School Counselor at NFA West and Dr. David Gallagher, Associate Professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary College.

Panelists were:

Elycia Martinez, NFA Main, Class of 2014

Major: History and Adolescent Education

Career Path: Social Studies Teacher

Transferred from: SUNY Orange

Sarah Williams, NFA Main, Class of 2014

Major: Undeclared

Career Path: Elementary school teacher

Transferred from: Daytona State College and Sullivan County Community College

Francisco Mojica, NFA North, Class of 2016

Major: Mathematics with Actuarial Science Concentration


“This panel is of students who graduated from NFA, so when you hear what they have to say and develop your questions, know that they have an idea of what high school is like for you. While listening to their stories, I also want you to keep in mind that every single student in this building can go to college." Ms. Lakeya Stukes

Each week, a student introduces the panel. This week 10th grader Alexandra read a short bio to introduce the panel.

Panelists were asked a series of questions with three specific themes: personal journey, college application process, and overall college experience. Below are some of what the panelists had to share.

“Transferring to NFA made me realize how many people want to help you. Teachers really do want to see you succeed. Discovering clubs and finding a community within NFA really helped support me and push me to be where I am today. Really try to find your corner. My corner was Ceramics. It was a place and environment where I felt really comfortable. Having people around you who support you, but push you, is exactly what you need. Being involved in Ceramics and Book Club helped with the application process as well. I worked at a part-time job a lot junior and senior year, so I couldn't go to club events nearly as much as my peers could, but I was able to volunteer here and there and that all helped to have on my resume for my college application.” Elycia Martinez, NFA Main, Class of 2014

“That person that says we can go to Emma's or Goldback’s instead of going to class - they're not your friend. The friends who are encouraging you to do well and go to class - those are your friends. The people who are doing anything, but encouraging you to be your best, the people who are getting in your way of success, even with temptation - those aren't your friends. Find the right group of friends who will help you be the best version of yourself.” Sarah Williams, NFA Main, Class of 2014

“I think failure shaped a lot of who I am today and what I am able to accomplish. One year in high school, I was focused on the wrong things. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, but I definitely wasn’t focused on schoolwork and my grades and my GPA fell a lot as a result. I use the term failure, because it wasn’t a feeling that I was used to. It woke me up and made me realize that all four years do matter. That experience pushed me to focus and do well in college. I also learned that when I had things to do that I really liked – I did better in school as a result. I was on the baseball team starting in 8th grade. While we were in season, I was more excited to get up in the morning and go to school – it gave me something to look forward to. I also participated in the Debate Team and the Blood Drive. I liked being able to give back to the community. As important as your grades are, it's important to make friends. Finding people who enjoy the same things you do, are the best people to make friends with.” Francisco Mojica, NFA North, Class of 2016

On applying to college…

“At the time, applying to college seemed so stressful, but in hindsight, it was really pretty simple. If you’re joining clubs or activities to put on your resume early on, building relationships with teachers, so they can write you letters of recommendation, getting your personal essay to a good final product – then, the rest is filling out the applications. That can be tedious and time consuming, but with the common app, it has gotten a lot easier. I would encourage you to apply to a handful of schools, so that you have a choice. You can compare financial aid packages and programs of study to decide which school is the best for you if you have a few options.” Francisco Mojica, NFA North, Class of 2016

“I didn't apply to any colleges because I had received scholarships for basketball. After completing my Associates at SUNY Sullivan, I applied to 3 colleges. Applying as a transfer student was hard, mainly because I didn’t have my resume up to date. Had I done it in high school like I was supposed to, it might have been easier. I was also preliminarily accepted and offered a full ride to a great school, but was ultimately rejected because I didn't take the ACT or the SAT. That was a big mistake.” Sarah Williams, NFA Main, Class of 2014

“My plan the whole time was to go to a community college to save some cost. I did end up applying to SUNY Orange, New Paltz, and the Mount. I knew I wanted to be a teacher early on, so I was very lucky in that respect. I was also lucky enough to see the mistakes my siblings made and not make similar ones. After SUNY Orange, I knew I wanted to go to the Mount, so I made sure to work hard at SUNY Orange to make sure I would achieve that goal.” Elycia Martinez, NFA Main, Class of 2014

“College is different because you're taking way more classes that you really want to take and classes that you're taking to develop your own knowledge and skillset to make sure you're a good candidate for employment.”

“College has made me explore my own independence. Professors are really there for you to guide and support, but at the end of the day, it's all on you. Going to class, turning in assignments - it's all on you, they can't do that for you. If you need help on those assignments, they're more than willing, but it really comes down to you doing it. Make your college career about what you want to learn and who you want to be is all up to you, which can be really exciting.” Elycia Martinez, NFA Main, Class of 2014

The Alumni left the students by each offering three pieces of advice...

Francisco Mojica, NFA North, Class of 2016

  1. Use your teachers - they really want to see you succeed.
  2. Make good friends, because you enjoy their company, but also because they push you and make you a better person.
  3. Get good grades - A lot of getting into college comes down to that.

Sarah Williams, NFA Main, Class of 2014

  1. Stay motivated. Never let someone tell you what you can be. Never let anybody tell you can't do something.
  2. Be yourself. Don't be a follower. Make your own path.
  3. Keep your grades up.

Elycia Martinez, NFA Main, Class of 2014

  1. Find community. Find friends who push you. They will be your motivation to keep coming to school.
  2. A teacher once told me about her 5-year plan. I thought it was a little weird. She had this ridiculous list of goals and expectations. Then in junior year, I made my own list and I felt so proud and excited when I checked things off and accomplished my goals. Make a plan with things you can check off as you accomplish small things to reach your overall goal.
  3. Find a mentor who you feel comfortable asking questions to and who will give you good and real answers.


As part of the internship program with NFA West, Professor David Gallagher is working with sophomore student, Jordan to develop a podcast series of the reoccurring WEST University presentations. Stay tuned.

ATTENTION: Are your scholars or colleagues doing something great? Please contact the district Communications Team at communications@necsd.net. We’d love to visit your class or event and/or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district!

Sophomore introduces panelists
NFA Alumni panelist
NFA Alumni panelist
NFA Alumni panelist

NFA Alumni panelist
Student Advisory poses as a group
Student Advisory poses as a group
Panelist and security guard, Mr. Rudy

All panelists pose together
Date: 2017-11-03 04:28:27 AM


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