Alumni

At Achievement First, our commitment to our students does not end when they graduate from our high schools. As our alumni climb the mountain to college graduation, the AF “Team & Family” provides guidance, support and resources.

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Albert Maldonado

Wesleyan University, Class of 2012


"Achievement First taught me that education is the key to breaking the perpetual cycle of poverty. I want to give back and contribute to developing my community."


As a member of Amistad Academy Middle’s first fifth-grade class, Albert often heard that the school aimed to develop leaders for our communities. It is a message he took to heart. While attending Wesleyan University, he served as a tutor for Amistad Academy students and as president and treasurer of Wesleyan’s Black and Latino Brotherhood. After graduating from college with a double major in psychology and economics, Albert returned to New Haven to work as a property manager at Sunrise Financial, LLC. There, he has standardized tenant placement procedures, coordinated maintenance requirements, organized inspections and helped the properties achieve record-low vacancy rates in his home city.

Although Albert last attended an Achievement First school in 2003, he never left the "Team & Family." His Amistad Academy counselors helped him throughout his school career; he graduated from Notre Dame High in 2007 and completed a post-graduate year at Northfield Mount Hermon in 2008. His counselors also helped him select his "best-fit" college and overcome personal struggles. At Wesleyan University, they helped him identify on-campus resources, set goals and hold himself accountable. When he needs career advice, he still calls his counselors from Amistad Academy.

Albert is excited to continue his career helping to enhance our community. He plans to return to school to pursue his MBA, buy real estate in New Haven and serve as a landlord developing the community in which he grew up.

Favorite aspect of being an Achievement First alumnus: "Looking back, I am most grateful to have had the support and the discipline that Achievement First provides. Achievement First helped to instill in me the idea that you need to be socially conscious and focused. I also remember working with my college counselor until 10:00 p.m. on college applications. I didn’t think anyone would do that, but Achievement First found teachers who would."

Proudest moment: "I am proud of graduating college, seeing my mom’s face and just letting her know that all of her hard work paid off because we achieved the goal that we set. I am also most proud of playing a role in my father’s epiphany that led him to improve his life and focus on faith and family."

 

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Quisha Walker

Bennett College for Women, Class of 2015


"I'm doing so much better in college than I did in high school. I feel like Achievement First really prepared me."

Quisha and her twin sister Iesha share a birthday, a campus and an important milestone: they are the first people in their family to go to college. For Quisha, college didn’t always seem like a certainty. In early high school, she mostly earned "C"s and found herself in detention for failing to listen to her teachers. Then, everything changed. She decided she had to take school more seriously because she wanted to move on to college after high school. With this in mind, Quisha drastically improved her GPA in her junior and senior years at AF Amistad High.

Now a student at Bennett College for Women, Quisha is a journalism and media studies major with a 3.3 GPA. The rigorous coursework at AF Amistad High makes her college classes seem easier than she had anticipated, and the AP History class she took in high school enabled her to take a 400-level history class as just a sophomore at Bennett. Quisha participates in work study, has served as a resident assistant and was elected president of her college’s chapter of the NAACP. In that role, she led student campaigns to fight voter disenfranchisement in national elections. Quisha also enjoys sharing an off-campus apartment with fellow Bennett students—including her sister—and interning at an underground hip-hop radio station.

Achievement First has been with Quisha through every step of her college success, from helping her select a college with small class sizes to helping her thrive on the North Carolina campus. Quisha’s AF alumni counselor visited her at college and helped her find a campus champion who would serve as a "go-to" person. Quisha found her advocate in an alumna and orientation leader, and they built a strong relationship. The woman loves Quisha, introduced her to her family and helps her manage any problems she encounters. 

When Quisha comes home, she visits Elm City College Prep Middle, where she sits in class with her brother who is having a hard time in school. She encourages him and lets him know that he can get through his struggles and go on to succeed in college, just like she has.

Favorite aspect of being an Achievement First alumna: "I love that most of the people who graduated with me from high school are still in college, and that we can talk about life at AF Amistad High and about life as college students."

Proudest moment: "My proudest moment is serving as NAACP president for my chapter. The work that we did to fight voter disenfranchisement was life-changing. It made me realize that I have a political side that I’d never really thought about."

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Kevin Torres

College of The Holy Cross, Class of 2016


"The teachers at Achievement First are fantastic. I feel like they really enabled me to succeed in college, especially with my writing."

 

 

Although Kevin is a strong student, he found the transition from middle school to high school to be very difficult. As a high school freshman, his GPA was so low that he nearly had to repeat the grade. As a college freshman, Kevin’s experience has been completely different. In his first semester at the College of the Holy Cross, he earned a 3.5 GPA. He attributes his smooth college transition to the work ethic he cultivated at AF Amistad High, and to the continuous support he receives through the school’s alumni program.

In his first year of college, Kevin took a 300-level rhetoric class and earned an A-. During the class, which he took in order to earn a role as a writing tutor, he wrote a 15-page case study and a 32-page paper. Had it not been for the difficult writing assignments he tackled as a high school student, Kevin might have found this process intimidating. Because of his experiences, he mastered his assignments.

Achievement First helped set Kevin up for success at Holy Cross. Although he toured the college as a high school junior, it wasn’t until his college counselor arranged an overnight visit when he truly began to appreciate the school and the campus. With the help of his college counselor, he applied to nine colleges, considered the financial, academic and social components of each school, and knew he wanted to become a Holy Cross Crusader. The support he received in making his college decision has continued throughout his college career; his alumni counselor has encouraged him to make connections with professors, and she routinely talks with him about goal-setting, establishing strategies and improving his grades in the classes he finds most difficult.

Kevin plans to major in either math or computer science and to participate in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program offered by a consortium of Worcester-based colleges and universities. He also plans to continue the hard work and academic success he showed at Achievement First, and to graduate with a 3.5 GPA.

Proudest moment: "I’m most proud of the 15-page case study I wrote for my rhetoric class. I interviewed a senior and broke her writing down rhetorically and grammatically before coming to a conclusion about her work. She is an English major who wants to become a teacher, and she told me that my work really changed the way she thought about writing."

Favorite aspect of being an Achievement First alumnus:"Achievement First is like a family. When I come back to AF Amistad High, I feel like I never left. I keep in contact with my counselors and my teachers. I also speak a lot with Anabelle, who graduated with me and went to Yale, because we have similar workloads in college and we understand each other."

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Julius Bennett

Bates College, Class of 2014


"I want to be the one who is changing things. That's a spirit I've developed further because of Achievement First."

Julius’ academic journey has taken him to a highly selective college in Maine, and across an ocean to Hokkaido–the northern island of Japan. During a three-month summer program, Julius studied culture, globalization and language at a Japanese university; he also donned a kimono as part of a special festival, visited architecturally significant buildings, and met students from across the country and the world.

He is blazing his own trail, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Julius’ time at Achievement First schools taught him to pursue his individual goals and not just follow the crowd. It is a value system that has served him well at Bates College, where he majors in philosophy, minors in Japanese, and serves as co-president of the martial arts club and president of the Discordians, Bates’ chemical-free organization. At Achievement First, Julius learned that he wanted “to be the change he wishes to see in the world,” and he gained the tools to help him forge his own path.

While he thrives on independence, making new friends and pursuing his own goals, Julius has also been comforted to have a little piece of home with him on the Bates campus. Michelle, his classmate with whom he attended both Amistad Academy Middle and AF Amistad High, is always just a phone call away. Michelle and Julius always know where to find each other when they need support, and they have included each other in their own on-campus social circles.

Julius’ trip to Japan was his first experience abroad, but it won’t be his last. Julius plans to complete his 60-page thesis, graduate from Bates and return to Japan to teach English for at least one year. He knows the tools he developed at Achievement First will help him continue his unique journey toward changing the world.

Favorite Aspect of being an Achievement First alumnus: "All of the teachers still say, ‘We’re here for you if you need it.’ I can talk to teachers about my time in school, about their recent students or about college. Even though my friends might not admit it, whenever we talk, our days at Amistad Academy still come up. It is great to have these memories and relationships and to continue to develop them."

Proudest moment: "My proudest moment is achieving my dream of studying in Japan. I was supposed to go earlier, but it did not work out because of financial aid and I was very sad. Now, I finally have the chance I’ve been waiting for. It has always been my dream to go to Japan and to find and define my happiness."

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Sakirah Epps

Central Connecticut State University, Class of 2016

"I love staying connected with other AF Amistad High alumni, and talking with my alumni counselor. Even though I graduated from high school, it always feel like we're still a family."

When it came time to choose a college, Sakirah knew that she needed to select a school that would challenge her academically and meet her financial needs. Her AF Amistad High college counselor helped her decide on Central Connecticut State University—a school that has met both of those vital requirements and helped her grow as a student and a young woman. As she walks across campus, she senses the “Team & Family” she became accustomed to at Achievement First.  Many fellow AF Amistad High alumni are now her Central Connecticut State University classmates. Students show their school spirit by wearing the university’s colors: the same blue and white she wore at AF Amistad High. She stays in touch with many alumni and with her Achievement First alumni counselor, and she has made many new friends from around the state and the country. For Sakirah, the college campus feels like her second home.

Sakirah hasn’t always felt comfortable with all aspects of college. Initially, the college set her schedule, which resulted in a workload that challenged her more than she had anticipated. Sakirah spoke regularly with her AF alumni counselor, who helped her identify a schedule that would fit her learning style and help her balance her coursework. Using this information, Sakirah advocated for herself with her campus adviser and was able to choose a schedule with which she is more comfortable. A business management major, Sakirah is looking forward to taking more major-specific classes in the years to come.

Throughout her college experience, Sakirah has felt the constant support of the AF Amistad High community. Her AF alumni counselor has helped her and her family navigate financial aid forms. Her counselor has also helped her identify weaknesses as a college student, so that she can learn and grow from them. Whenever she has a break from school, she knows she can always return to AF Amistad High, especially since there is always a homecoming event for alumni.

Favorite aspect of being an Achievement First alumna: “There are so many benefits. My AF alumni counselor helps me with so many things. When I struggled with a marketing class, she connected me with a marketing professional so I could shadow him for a day and learn more about the field. She always helps me find ways I can improve as a student. All of the check-ins show me how much the people at Achievement First really care about me and want me to succeed.”

Proudest moment: “My proudest moment as an AF Amistad High alumna has been breaking out of my shell. I am usually a shy person, but Achievement First helped me gain the confidence to make friends on my own and to try new things. At Central Connecticut State University, I went to an event and learned a Japanese style of dance called para para. Even though I learned that dancing is not one of my strongest points, it was exciting and fun to branch out and do something different.”

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Achievement First Alumni

Achievement First alumni are attending prestigious schools such as Brown University, Yale University, Howard University and Williams College (and they’ve been accepted to more than 190 colleges overall!). Our recent college graduates are pursuing careers in a variety of exciting fields, including education. Some alumni are now teaching the next generation of students in Achievement First classrooms. We are proud to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of our Achievement First graduates, and to provide intensive programming and targeted support designed to foster persistence that will help alumni reach their college and career goals.

 
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