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SCC is a family affair for the Quintero’s

Quintero works with Stoltenberg in the Student Success Center.
Quintero and Stoltenberg in the Student Success Center.

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 Language classes.

“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 attending school.

“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 stupid.”

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.


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Andrea Gallagher
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