Introducing the 2020-2021 Ascend PSP Parent Advisors
The Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents (PSP) Initiative is a partnership with Imaginable Futures and the ECMC Foundation to raise awareness about and share recommendations to better support students who are parents. The PSP Initiative is informed by three groups of experts from across the United States: Parent Advisors, National Advisors, and the Postsecondary Leadership Circle for Parents.
The 2020 – 2021 Parent Advisors are a group of 11 students who are parents who share the challenges they face navigating their postsecondary journey with children. They attend two to four-year institutions and workforce development programs. In addition to participating in convenings and speaking engagements, the Parent Advisors will help design the Aspen Parent Powered Solutions Fund, a grant that will support nonprofit, community-based organizations working to guide students who are parents to obtain a postsecondary degree or credential.
Yoslin Amaya Hernandez
University of Maryland, College Park
Yoslin Amaya Hernandez is the mother of two sons, ages three and five. She is a graduate of Montgomery College and a full-time student at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she majors in Government & Politics. Motivated to break her family’s cycle of poverty following the birth of her first son, she joined Generation Hope, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides mentoring and resources to help teen parents become college graduates and help their children prepare for kindergarten.
Read Yoslin Amaya Hernandez’s Ascend blog post here.
Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC)
Family Resource Center, CA
Amber Angel is the mother of two daughters and is a graduate of California State University at Northridge. She majored in Family and Consumer Sciences. As the program coordinator for the LAVC Family Resource Center, Angel supports parents in both academic and workforce pathways. She oversees on-campus partnerships and streamlines academic, workforce, career and technical education, and child care resources for students. She also partners with off-campus community agencies that offer two-generation supports.
City University of New York (CUNY), NY
Jesus Benitez is a recent graduate of the City University of New York with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Philosophy. He also has an associate’s degree in Philosophy from LaGuardia Community College. Benitez became the father of one son at age 17 and dropped out of high school to support his family. When his son turned two, he joined the CUNY Fatherhood Academy to obtain his High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. He then enrolled in LaGuardia Community College, where he became a LaGuardia Ambassador to speak about the needs of scholarships for students of color. Benitez currently works as the mentor coordinator for the CUNY Fatherhood Academy, where he focuses on helping young fathers pursue an HSE diploma and enroll in college. He also works as an educational case manager for the Center for Immigrant Education, which supports immigrant families with low incomes to become lifelong learners and independent citizens of New York City.
Read Jesus Benitez’s Ascend blog post here.
Community Foundation of Sarasota County, FL
Lynnette Coney is the mother of three boys, ages four, eight, and 10. She received a Patient Care Technician certification from Manatee Technical College in 2014 and graduated from nursing school at Suncoast Technical College in 2018. Coney passed the National Council Licensure Examination in 2019.
Lesley Del Rio
Lesley Del Rio is the mother of a 9-year-old boy. She graduated from Florence Crittenton High School in 2013 and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration through an online partnership program between PelotonU and Southern New Hampshire University. Del Rio serves as the career pathways trainer at Mi Casa Resource Center.
Read Lesley Del Rio’s blog post here.
Washington State Department of Health, WA
Drayton Jackson is the father of six daughters and two sons and is a student at Olympic College. He is the founder of the Family Day Foundation, which provides families with low incomes or that are experiencing homelessness with an opportunity to attend family-oriented events. He serves as vice-chair of the Steering Committee for Governor Jay Inslee’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup. Prior to this role, Jackson served as the vice-chair of the Head Start Association’s parent-led Policy Council and the Parent Ambassador with the Washington State Association of Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. Currently, he serves on the Central Kitsap School District Board of Directors.
Read Drayton Jackson’s Ascend blog post here.
West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology, MI
Rashika Lee is the grandmother of three and the mother of one son, whom she raised as a single parent. She received a certification in Medical Coding and Health Information Management from the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology in 2016. Lee currently works for Spectrum Health on the Patient Liability Support Team, where she helps patients understand billing and insurance.
Oregon State University, OR
Michaela Martin is the mother of one son. She is also a full-time student at the University of La Verne pursuing a Juris Doctorate to strengthen her ability to engage in public interest work. She dropped out of high school and later graduated from Oregon State University with a B.S. in Speech Communication and a minor in Psychology in 2018. While enrolled, she served as the Assistant Director of Advocacy Programs, was appointed as vice-chair of the OSU Family Services Board and was awarded the Ford Family Foundation Opportunity Scholarship. Her efforts culminated in the OR Senate Bill 794 — a bill introduced during the 2019 legislative session that would require colleges and universities to collect and report on the enrollment and graduation rates of students who are parents.
Read Michaela Martin’s Ascend blog post here.
Community Caring Collaborative, ME
Savannah Steiger is the mother of a daughter and son. She received an associate’s degree in Art Studies from Gulf Coast State College in 2014. She became involved with Family Futures Downeast and the Caring Community Collaborative in 2017 when she decided to return to college. She is currently enrolled in the University of Maine at Machias, where she majors in Psychology and Community Studies/ Her goal is to become a counselor.
Read Savannah Steiger’s Ascend blog post here.
George Mason University
Ariel Ventura-Lazo is a first-generation American and the first in his family to attend college. He is the father of a son and a daughter and currently studies Business Management and Psychology at George Mason University. Prior to this, he received his associate’s degree in Business Administration from NOVA in 2017 after a five-year academic hiatus to focus on providing for his family.
Read Ariel Ventura-Lazo’s blog post here.
Project Self-Sufficiency, CA
Waukecha WIlkerson is a single mother of 13-year-old and five-year-old sons and a seven-year-old daughter. She is a scholar of psychology at California State University, Sacramento. Waukecha fulfills her passion for serving others through her life coaching business, Won’t She Do It. As a life and wellness coach, she encourages others to identify their own goals, create paths towards achieving those goals, and actionable steps to take towards creating their best life. Waukecha also leads a team of life and wellness coaches for the leading mobile learning technology company, Cell-Ed.
As a proud single mother of three, Waukecha has taken her circumstances as opportunities to reach even higher for her goals. Through self-discovery, reflection, planning, and discipline, she has and continues to create an inspiring life of fulfillment, satisfaction, and happiness. When she’s not working or studying, you can find Waukecha pouring into her peers and encouraging others along their journey to self-empowerment and self-determination. Waukecha is committed to be a living example for her children and community by demonstrating that challenges are just victories that you have not won yet.
Read Waukecha Wilkerson’s Ascend blog post here.
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