For most students, juggling
school and work can be quite challenging. Izchel Quintero is not your average
student. She juggles three jobs while attending Southeast Community College,
maintains a 3.7 grade-point average, and she’s been doing it the whole time
while learning a new language.
“I have no idea how I do it,
I just do,” she said matter-of-factly.
Quintero came to Nebraska
four years ago from Guadalajara, Mexico, to join the rest of her family after
her grandmother died. She first came to SCC when she took English as a Second
“Once I finished that, I
wanted to keep going to school,” she said. “The educational system is very
different here than in Mexico.”
None of the classes she took
at the University of Mexico would transfer, so she needed to start over.
Eventually she came back to SCC to enroll as an Academic Transfer student.
“There’s really good teachers
at SCC, I’ve learned a lot. Things aren’t as confusing,” she said.
Quintero soon met Shelley
Stoltenberg, a Success Coach at SCC, and made an impression right away.
“She had only been in our
country a few years and had really good English, but was confused by the whole
system here and how things work,” Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg helped her get
acclimated to the College and guide her through registration, picking classes
and choosing a program. Quintero decided on the Academic Transfer program so
she can eventually get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, maybe even her doctorate.
“She will be successful,”
Stoltenberg said. “She’s got a great support system. She understands the value
of hard work. I think she’ll do a lot of amazing things.”
Her support system includes
her mother, Hilda, her older brother, Ibis, and her younger sister, Istar. They
also share another common trait: They are all students at SCC. Hilda was an
agronomist in Mexico but is now in the Academic Transfer program hoping to
continue her career in agriculture. Ibis is in the Automotive Technology program,
and Istar will start in the fall as an Academic Transfer student. She received
a Learn to Dream Scholarship. All of them are juggling multiple jobs while
“We come from a low-income
family, and we are not picky with things,” Quintero said. “We do things because
we have to. So far we are all doing fine.”
Stoltenberg says the
immigrant students at SCC are very driven and work hard toward their goals.
“There’s definitely a
different mindset,” Stoltenberg said. “There’s an understanding that hard work
pays off. They’re very focused and don’t complain, plus they have to navigate a
whole new culture.”
Stoltenberg said she works
with students from all over the world, and she tries to provide a welcoming
environment for these students.
“I try to be supportive and
patient and be a person they can come and talk to,” she said.
Not everyone is so welcoming,
Quintero said. When she first came to Nebraska and was struggling with the
English language, people were rude and disrespectful.
“Sometimes I would get really
upset about that,” she said. “I would try and remind myself they don’t speak
Spanish, and just because you don’t speak the language doesn’t mean you’re
Quintero is a permanent
resident but needs to be here for five years before she can apply to become an American
citizen. She is emotional when talking about the recent news that President
Trump is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“You don’t know what people
go through to come to another country,” she said. “Don’t we all just want a
better life? Isn’t that what we are all looking for? People don’t know what it
takes to be a legal immigrant. It’s a difficult situation. It doesn’t really
matter where you’re from, all that matters is you’re a person.”
She has learned many things
while adapting to a new culture, the most important being that she wants to
have a career where she can help people adjust in one way or another. She still
misses Mexico and her culture, but she thinks she could do a lot more here.
“I learned a lot, met a lot
of people and learned a lot about myself,” she said. “I have a better chance to
help people here, and I know people I could help.”
“We don’t know yet what she
will be doing for sure, but she will be great,” Stoltenberg added.