YES Prep Helped Me Focus on My Future, And Now I’m Living It
When I was in middle school, I could only think about the present: playing sports or video games and talking with my friends. I was not thinking about my future.
Neither were my teachers. My school was big, like many public schools. I was one of 850 students in my class. Most classrooms held 30 students or more. My teachers’ main focus was to make sure my classmates and I could pass tests. They seemed to have minimal interest in our futures.
I expected to continue on to my local high school, but I was afforded the opportunity to go to YES Prep, a public charter school focused on college readiness. Initially, I was not a big fan of the change since it meant that I would leave my friends. It was hard to understand the importance of that switch.
But when I started my first year at Yes Prep, I began to change. My school was created to prepare students for college, so it was set up differently. Class sizes were small and teachers were excited to prepare us for our futures. Teachers were able to focus on all of us. They invested their time to make sure we were learning and preparing ourselves for the future. As a result, my focus was no longer on the present, but on my future and how I could prepare for it.
I was able to create strong relationships with my teachers and principals. They knew us all by name and knew who our parents were. My teachers continued to push me even when I could not realize why. They knew my potential as well as that of all my peers. Unlike my sibling's teachers at my local high school, my teachers were able to make stronger connections with us.
With the college focus, we were encouraged to think about what schools we wanted to go to. YES Prep took us on trips to visit schools near and far. We were able to see colleges across the country because our school knew how important it is for students to visit these campuses. In 2018, I graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering.
I cannot imagine what would have changed if I had not attended my charter school. I do not want to imagine what other students might have to deal with without the option to go to a charter school. While traditional public schools often fail to deliver the education and dedication to students needed for them to succeed, charter schools provide it. These schools not only help students in the present, but provide a path for their future success.
I now work at a robotics company in Massachusetts. YES Prep provided me the opportunity to seek my future and attain it.
Bio: Josua Gonzales-Neal is a native Houstonian and is the youngest of four siblings. In 2014 he graduated from YES Prep Gulfton in Houston and won a George Washington Carver Scholarship to attend Iowa State University. While in college, he joined the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and served as a peer mentor coordinating for the Leadership through Engineering Academic Diversity (LEAD) program. He was named a McNair scholar, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering in 2018. Currently he is an associate software engineer on the mobile applications team for iRobot, the makers of Roomba.