A Student Finds Her Path in Challenging Times

Claudia“I’m graduating in February and deciding between two CUNY colleges.
CYD and MCNDHS changed my life.”

When Claudia first heard about Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day High School from a friend, she thought it might be the perfect place for her. Her situation was complicated: although she had studied psychology in college for two years in her native Peru, she wouldn’t be eligible to begin college here until she had a diploma from an American high school. Claudia had to work while she attended school, so MCNDHS’s flexibility suited her schedule. She started school and thrived, making new friends, loving her teachers, and forging close relationships with CYD advisors who helped her in many ways, from connecting her with an immigration lawyer and helping her improve her English language skills to providing a toothbrush when she needed one. Claudia was able to find a job as an office assistant at a small advertising agency, where she helped with publicity and commercial production.

Then in March 2020, COVID-19 hit. The advertising office shut down, and Claudia wasn’t eligible to collect unemployment because of her immigration status. Alone in a rented room, “emotionally, it was overwhelming, living between four walls,” Claudia said. But some very welcome news gave her hope: one year after applying, “Magically, I got a call from my lawyer to say that my green card arrived. It changed the way I was thinking.” Her personal life began to look up as well: Claudia and her boyfriend got married. “Moving in with him gave me more support,” she said of her husband, an MCNDHS graduate and construction worker who plans to study engineering and one day own his own company.

For Claudia, the shutdown put things in perspective: “Saving money is very important, being ready for anything. And choosing the people you trust and want to spend time with.” She got an entry-level job at Chipotle and has since been promoted to manager. Supervising people was hard at first as she adjusted to becoming “the speaker, the leader.” However, what she is learning in this role will help her in the future: “managing, knowing more about people, learning about interpersonal skills.” Claudia’s ultimate aim is to become a therapist or counselor. “I had a hard childhood myself, and I’m interested in the way people are affected by their pasts.”

Back at MCNDHS in person this school year, Claudia has had happy reunions with the advisors and teachers she stayed in close contact with during the pandemic. She bikes to school from her home in Queens. Claudia particularly enjoys computer programming classes, and works hard to fit in both academics and her job. Her CYD advisors have helped her with college applications, résumé writing, and career planning. Claudia will graduate from MCNDHS in February 2022 and she is currently deciding between two CUNY colleges, where she will pursue a degree in human resources, a field that incorporates her interest in people. After that, she hopes to go to John Jay College and study psychology.

Claudia emerged from the roller coaster of the last two years with the credentials she needs to start college in the U.S. and launch her career – and with professional managerial experience, advisors she can turn to in the future, a green card, and an understanding of herself, her priorities, strengths, and goals. “CYD and MCNDHS changed my life.”

Your dollars make a difference!

Without the support of each and every one of our individual donors, the stories you read about and the programs that make an impact in the lives of our young people would not be possible. Thank you!