The moment Delia Cruz Nochebuena stepped on to the Uplift Williams campus on the first day of school in 2009, she encountered a surprisingly inviting environment. It was a welcoming place where teachers and administrators greeted each scholar by name. She had never seen anything like it.
In short order, she found her new school to be a distraction free zone that would become an important part of her journey to becoming one of the top scholars in the network and a rising star in college.
“I was shocked because all of my life I had been going to schools that have metal detectors…but I feel like the fact that there weren’t any metal detectors just kind of instantly gave students that feeling of ‘I trust you to come and be prepared to be in school and not harm anyone.’ That sort of family environment where we take care of each other and everyone is here to help you grow,” said Delia.
It was that family environment, along with her own family, that encouraged and inspired her to strive towards her goal of getting into college. For Delia, family stories of her father’s struggle to escape the political turmoil in his native Bolivia, of the sacrifices that her mother and older brother made, all served as encouragement to pursue her dreams.
Now, as a 2013 graduate of Uplift Williams and as a rising sophomore at the University of Rochester, Delia has made great strides towards completing her bachelor’s degree. She is currently a double major in Spanish literature and Latin American studies but her college experiences go way beyond academics.
“I initially went to college thinking I just wanted to major in literature but after reading a lot of Latin American authors, I realized how much I really enjoyed the politics and history of Latin America. It made me want to study my background, my father being Bolivian and my mother being Mexican- those are two completely different worlds.” she explained.
This diverse background served as the perfect springboard for her experiences in college. In her freshman year at the university, Delia joined a variety of student organizations that both furthered her interest Latin American studies and exposed her to the diversity around her. She became a part of the Douglass Leadership house, the Minority student advisory board, the College Diversity roundtable and the Spanish and Latino students association.
However, Delia wasn’t just all business. She also explored normal college activities like staying up after 2am to build a snowman with the engineering students and even learned how to dance to K-Pop, a modern form of South Korean pop music that is popular around the world.
Experiences like these are what drive Delia to continue to learn and grow. After braving her first year of bitter cold in Rochester, NY, without any sweet tea or hot sauce, Delia returned to Dallas this summer to intern at the Teaching Trust.
Co-founded by Rosemary Perlmeter who also founded Uplift Education, The Teaching Trust is a non-profit organization that focuses on equipping educators with tools to lead the change needed for the academic success and equity of all students. This is Delia’s second internship with the Teaching Trust, and she could not be more excited to continue to learn about what makes great educators.
Throughout the summer, she has worked with educators who have inspired her throughout her own educational journey. She assisted in classes taught by Ms. Perlmeter and has learned from the techniques taught to educators about how to navigate urban education and work collaboratively for students.
“The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that there are people who care, and it’s not just one person. I feel like a lot of times as a student, you just see your surroundings and you think that it’s one teacher who cares or this one area that cares but being able to be in a room full of people who show that they’re passionate about their students, about education, about changing their lives, is just overwhelming,” said Delia.
Her experience interning with the Teaching Trust has resonated with her and reminds her of her own educational journey. She is determined to continue on a path to success, if not for herself, but for everyone who has supported her along the way.
“I can’t give up. I can’t just say I’m going to quit now because there are certain opportunities that come once in a lifetime and I’m not in that position to say I’m going to stop this. If I were to do that, that means that in the future all the work that’s been happening, all the people that have given their time, that have funded me, that have taken the time to get to know me, that have done everything for me, that have sacrificed things for me- all of that work would be for nothing. That would mean that everything I believed in would be for nothing. Education is the only way that my life will continue to change,” Delia said.
When her four years at the University of Rochester wrap up, Delia will continue in academia. She ultimately wants to get a PhD in literature and become a college professor. However, she wants to start her career by teaching high school. For Delia, high school was a pivotal moment in time in her life, and she has worked hard to give back as an Uplift alumni.
Delia is an Uplift Alumni Ambassador and has worked with April Bowman, Uplift Director of Alumni programs, to reach out to current scholars, staff and anyone who is curious about her time at Uplift Williams.
“Delia is an intelligent, committed, resilient, energetic young woman whose passion for life as well as helping others is contagious. Delia has been such a strong asset to our Uplift Alumni Network family, and I am glad that she serves as an Uplift Alumni Ambassador and was recently selected as an Uplift Alumni Coordinator (intern) and will work with Road to College throughout the upcoming school year. Delia will definitely do amazing things in life,” said April.
The experiences that Delia has had have helped her grow as a person, and she hopes to give back in the same way that has been done for her. She hopes to draw upon all of her experiences as she moves towards becoming an educator and remains dedicated to her passion of inspiring others to continue on their own path towards higher education.
“I feel like a lot of times what separates a student from going to college and from joining the work force is someone believing in them,” Delia said.