Quinnipiac University

High school students find inspiration at Increasing Educator Diversity Symposium

Hundreds of high school students from throughout Connecticut who one day aspire to teach converged at Quinnipiac on April 27 for the State Department of Education’s Increasing Educator Diversity Symposium.

“It was pretty fun,” said Yanitza Perez, a high school senior. “I am interested in teaching a lot more now than I was before. Being able to meet all these people with different backgrounds has been pretty cool."

Perez was one of more than 150 high school students who participated in the day-long event that explored the future of the education profession and the multiple pathways to a successful career in education. The speakers included Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Congresswoman Johana Hayes, Quinnipiac Provost Debra Liebowitz and Quinnipiac Vice President for Equity, Inclusion, and Leadership Development Don Sawyer.

“This event has opened my eyes to the power of teaching,” said Devina Carter, a high school senior.

Each of the students involved are part of the national Educators Rising program, which guides young people on a path from high school through college and into successful teaching careers through hands-on experiences.

“By working with aspiring educators who reflect the demographics of their communities and who are passionate about serving those communities through public education, Educators Rising is changing the face of teaching,” the program promises.

Michele Ridolfi O’Neill, an educational issues specialist for the Connecticut Education Association, reassured the students that they had the power to make a tangible difference in the lives of future leaders — if they are willing to put in the effort.

“One of the misconceptions that seems to persist is that people think of teaching as an easy job,” she said. “It’s not an easy job, but it is a very rewarding career.”

Colby Millikin, a graduate education student at Quinnipiac, told the high school students that teachers hold a special place in society.

“You’re not just a teacher to most of your students, you’re the safe space for a lot of them,” Millikin said.

Da'Jhon Jett, a Quinnipiac alumnus who teaches 6th grade, encouraged the future educators to go all in.

"I enjoy every hour that I’m working, I enjoy every minute,” Jett said. “There are some days that are really challenging but I can always say I want to come back tomorrow.”

Educators Rising has affiliates in more than 30 states spanning the entire country, from coast to coast.

“Words cannot describe how proud I am, and I get emotional just thinking about them,” Eileen Marquez, a New Britain High School teacher, told NBC Connecticut at the event.

Michele Ridolfi O’Neill, an educational issues specialist for the Connecticut Education Association, reassured the students that they had the power to make a tangible difference in the lives of future leaders — if they are willing to put in the effort.

“One of the misconceptions that seems to persist is that people think of teaching as an easy job,” she said. “It’s not an easy job, but it is a very rewarding career.”

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