Senior Perspective: Leadership Means Standing Up for Others
Angell shares about her experience as a first-generation high school graduate, the issues that impact her in the workplace, and her aspirations for the future.
June 16, 2021
TFA Indy's #CenteringStudentVoices series seeks to elevate student voice and leadership on the issues that impact students directly.
We are excited to spotlight Arsenal Technical High School recent graduate, Angell Gomez as part of our ongoing effort to elevate student voices. Since her freshman year in high school, Angell has participated in programming through Indiana-based nonprofits TeenWorks and Starfish Initiative. TeenWorks provides on the job training and career development for young Hoosiers. Starfish Initiative inspires, encourages, and prepares academically promising high school students facing unearned adversity for college and career success.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a senior at Arsenal Tech. I will be a member of the class of 2021, hopefully graduating with academic honors. I’m a female. I identify as Mexican; my family is from Mexico. In high school, I’ve been taking Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we haven’t been doing our clinical hours, so I’ll be getting my certification a little late, this summer. But I’ve been taking classes towards my CNA for the past two years. After high school, I’m going to attend Marian University where I will be studying nursing for four years.
How did you get involved with TeenWorks?
I got involved with TeenWorks the summer after my freshman year in high school. When I first heard of it, it sounded like a great opportunity to get job experience and get help with resumes. It’s a six-week program and you get paid hourly, and you get to learn all about having a job and how it works.
I heard about TeenWorks through my mentor with Starfish Initiative, Maire Gurevitz. Starfish Initiative is an organization that helps students to get from high school to whatever path they want to take, for example, college or the army. The mentors have lots of life experience and really care - they don’t get paid at all! My mentor, Maire, who works at the Indiana Historical Society, was with me all four years of high school. She’s there whenever I need her. She told me about TeenWorks and said, “You need to do this!” And I was like, “I trust you!”
Through TeenWorks, I worked at the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab at Marian University. It’s so cool – they have a pond, trails, all kinds of trees, plants, birds, bugs, everything. My team was in charge of making sure the trails were nice: we re-graveled the trails, which took a really long time. We also cleared the path around the Major Taylor Velodrome – so much landscaping! We did lots of dirty work. If you can do hard outside labor, you can do any type of job.
Do you have any other work experience?
After that, summer before my junior year, I worked with Indianapolis Project Seed (a high school summer research program), which is a part of the American Chemical Society. Basically, they paired me up with a scientist who was studying to find a cure for diabetes. I was able to learn about experiments: how scientists come up with hypothesis, make processes, write notes, take pictures of cells, and take care of the test subjects (mice).
Last summer, I worked for Kohl’s, which was my first “real” job, and I currently work there. All of this has been because of TeenWorks, getting that hands-on experience. TeenWorks program managers helped me learn how to write a resume, what employers are looking for, how to act during an interview, and ways to stand out through my resume and in my interview.
What are your career aspirations?
Career exploration is also a part of TeenWorks. TeenWorks organizes careers fairs, and I was able to talk with all types of people in all types of industries doing all kinds of careers. I asked people why it is that they do what they do; I wanted to know that it was that made them passionate. I also interviewed a pediatric nurse I knew through my Starfish Initiative mentor.
All the nurses said they care about people, and I care about people. I’m always taking care of people, and that’s why I want to be a nurse. I do pretty well in school; I have a pretty high GPA. So, I’m always looking out for my friends and helping people with their homework – helping people get ahead so they don’t get behind. I’m also really interested in science, it’s so fascinating to me: learning about the body and learning about the world had how it works. Helping people, science, and healthcare – that’s it for me.
“All the nurses said they care about people, and I care about people. I’m always taking care of people, and that’s why I want to be a nurse. I do pretty well in school; I have a pretty high GPA. So, I’m always looking out for my friends and helping people with their homework – helping people get ahead so they don’t get behind.”
What are the issues that matter most to you and your peers/friends? Why?
One thing that me and my friends struggle with is racism. It affects us in lots of different ways.
For me, personally, when I go to work, I work at the register. A lot of times, when I call up someone to help them, people give me a weird face. I try to act as kind as possible, but they give me a weird face or don’t look at me or don’t talk to me. Still, I take the time to organize and fold purchases and nicely place them in the bag. I feel like my friends most of my friends have gone through this, where they’ve tried to be so kind to someone, and, in the end, we’re still treated poorly or pushed away no matter how hard we try. A lot of times, I’ve had people skip over me and go to the lady at the next register, who is not a person of color. I’ve had lots of people skip over me. I don’t take that too personally, I guess it’s just how people grew up, but it still hurts.
I want people to know that we’re human too. We’re people, we’re not an alien race that people don’t know of. We’re still kind to other people, and we’re trying to fit into society. Some people are racist towards the accent that we have; we can’t control that. We’re already trying our best to fit in, we’re trying our best to learn the language as perfectly as possible, and we’re trying our hardest to excel.
How do you think we, as adults and as a city, could include more student voice and leadership in our decision-making?
In eighth grade, I was able to visit the Indiana Statehouse. It was a great way to see bills are passed. More students should be involved in that, but not just sitting in the background and seeing it happen. We should also be involved at the Statehouse, or congresspeople should go to schools or organizations to ask students about our issues and problems. A lot of times, adults think that we as students don’t know anything and that we’re childish. No, we know things and see things that a lot of people don’t see sometimes. Include us more in things.
Do you feel like a leader in your school, family, and/or community?
A leader is someone who stand out and stands up for what is right – and stands up for other people. Someone who doesn’t just go along with everything because that is the norm. That person can voice up and make a change.
I feel like I’m a major leader in my family because whenever I talk to my family about something that is a problem, I do whatever I can to find a solution to that problem. For example, during COVID, we were running low on food because my mom and dad weren’t working as much. TeenWorks helped with this, they were sending out food resources – numbers, locations, and websites. I was able to contact Gleaners Food Bank, and they were able to deliver two large crates of food. That was really helpful – TeenWorks keeping us up to date with resources we needed.
All my life, I’ve been advocating for my family. When we go out to restaurants, or go out anywhere, I’m usually the one speaking because I speak English most proficiently. My mom is learning, and ever since I was little, I’ve been teaching her how to speak English. I’ve been a big advocate for my family, and I’m proud of them. I’m the oldest and the first to graduate high school in my family and I’m the first going to college in my family, and I almost have everything paid for.
Do you have any advice for students who are starting high school next fall?
Stay involved in school. If there’s any problem going on, don’t be scared to voice your opinion. Speak up. I’ve had times where I had to talk to the principal personally to let the principal know about the different situations going on in the school. Things do happen if you keep talking and get others to join you – your voice will be heard. Don’t let others or the feeling of not being heard stop you from speaking up.