I moved to Michigan from Southwest Florida when I was 13 years old. My dad fell ill and required surgery with a lengthy recovery time, so before my freshman year of high school I moved to Michigan to help with my family’s mum farm, take care of my dad, and maybe find an adventure. I moved from a district with 48,000 students dispersed between 61 schools to a village with a population of 2,000. I had spent a couple of weeks in the summer time there but I was not prepared for the culture shock I received once I started school.
As a Mexican-American, I went from being a majority to a minority in an area where people drove tractors to school and there was only one traffic light in the whole town—and it was a blinking one! I went from having more than 500 kids in my grade to having 500 kids total in the whole high school. I was completely out of my element.
My new school district was small, but its focus on community gave me core memories I will never forget: riveting biology teachers, after-school programs you didn’t have to pay to join, and even picking apples from the orchard next to the school in the fall. I learned a lot about rural life and lessons about myself that I carry with me to this day. For example, I found that I am not a “sleep under the stars” camper, or a camper by any means. I also learned how valuable and irreplaceable people are. Spending time with a side of my family I never really got to know, I nurtured connections into wonderful relationships that gave me perspectives I had never considered before.
After high school I moved back to Florida for about four years, and when it came time to transfer from a community college to a university, I found myself applying to schools back in Michigan. I made the move once more back to Michigan to finish my degree in public relations at Eastern Michigan University. Many of my classes required me to find organizations that I could volunteer my PR skills to. I started looking back at the community that served me well in a very hard time in my life, and that was where the Stockbridge Teen Center found me.
This free after-school center is located in an old middle school that shut down and now houses not only the police department but many other organizations. The teen center is funded by the local church, with a focus on the well-being of the kids. Volunteers come in to hang out with middle and high school kids after they get out of school until 5 PM. Teens can play Xbox, basketball, and board games; or get homework help if they need it.
I had the ability to not only volunteer here but also work on a volunteer outreach campaign connected with United Way to recruit new volunteers to the center. I had the opportunity to create all the social media content for family-friendly activities hosted by the center that were set to begin in the summer. This center’s passion for children inspired me to not only work hard but to find my own passion for education.
As a new PR coordinator on the team, I’ve seen the same sort of small-town culture that inspired me in Michigan here at PRP. I’m ecstatic to just be a part of such a driven organization that has created an uplifting and positive environment for our team and our client family. I look forward to supporting those interconnections and learning as much as I can along the way!