A week before her graduation from Pierson Vocational High School, Jessica Sanchez arrived to her interview for this story having just added another credential to her resume: a state-issued certificate showing that she had passed the computer maintenance technical skills assessment test.
Sanchez’s career goals have her headed in another direction – she plans to attend the Pima Community College campus in Nogales to earn an associate degree in social work – but she took advantage of the technical education opportunities at Pierson and achieved certification with the help of teacher Pat Mendez.
“We studied every day, we did like 25 questions a day,” Sanchez said of her computer maintenance class, adding that Mendez also gave them take-home questions to work on. The teacher then took the questions they had trouble with and turned them into a game called Kahoot.
“It helped me a lot,” Sanchez said.
The individual attention she received from teachers like Mendez, as well as administrators including Principal Berenice Rodriguez and counselor Lilian Bernal, made her experience at the small Nogales high school especially rewarding, she said.
“With less students, the counselor, principal, the teachers help you out more,” said Sanchez, who attended Pierson for all four years of her high school career.
During her senior year, Sanchez served as student body representative, helping to organize activities such as a cancer walk and food drive. Among other benefits, she said the experience helped improve her communication skills – something that came in handy when she was selected to deliver a speech at graduation.
Sanchez said the support she received from her older sister Kassandra and parents Maria and Irineo Sanchez was crucial in helping her excel and graduate from Pierson.
“They lived in Mexico and they moved over here so I can have a better education,” she said of her parents. “They have worked really hard, and I want them to feel proud of me that I did it.”
Family experiences were also instrumental in convincing her to pursue a career in social work.
“I would like to help other people, especially because in my family there’s people that have anxiety and depression and I would like to help them because I see them, how they feel and look, and I would like to help others,” she said, adding that after earning an associate degree from Pima, she would like to one day study for a bachelor’s degree in social work at either the University of Arizona or Grand Canyon University.
“Family” is a also a word that Sanchez used to describe the community at Pierson.
“Everyone sticks together, everyone is a family,” she said.
Looking ahead to her graduation, she said: “I’m ending a chapter in my life and I’m going to start a new one, a new journey.”