It would be easy to underestimate Cecilia, at first glance. She’s reserved, quiet, and a bit of an introvert. Behind that facade lies a strong desire to succeed. To embrace the power of now and chase her educational dreams. “I didn’t need to think for long,” Cecilia said. “After meeting the staff at NexStep, the decision to attend was easy.”

NexStep Alliance is a program powered by Goodwill Industries of Kansas and WSU Tech. It provides adult education classes such as GED and ESL, at little to no cost to participants. Goodwill’s mission to help those with barriers to employment like Cecilia is funded through proceeds from the 19 thrift stores in the region and events like Blue Jean Bingo.

Cecilia’s path to NexStep was anything but easy. The formal process to immigrate to the United States from El Salvador began when Cecilia was only four years old. It took 15 more years for her family and her to make it to America. In a foreign land, unable to communicate with most of the population, Cecilia had only her family and faith to provide any sense of belonging.

She tried attending public school programs to learn English, but they were not a great fit for her learning style. Fortunately, she was handed a flyer for an ESL program at NexStep Alliance powered by Goodwill and WSU Tech that would allow her to continue working full-time while attending classes.

She found an opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.

Cecilia came to NexStep for ESL classes but qualified for free tuition to WSU Tech through Kansas Pathway to Career legislation. This allowed her to earn a Kansas High School diploma and a technical certificate at the same time. She is described as the ideal student because of her persistence and determination.

“One of her important traits is that she knows her strengths and weaknesses,” said Michelle McNeill, ESL Manager “She is willing to listen to others and learn from her mistakes. This important trait helped her have a clear vision of where she wanted to go and how she has handled some unique challenges.”

As Goodwill’s 2022 Scholar of the Year, Cecilia wanted to take the next step to accomplish her dreams. Once she graduated through NexStep Alliance, she applied to be a VISTA through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In fall 2023 she was accepted and currently works through the program for Goodwill Industries of Kansas. This has helped her to build skills, and connections and has taught her a lot within the IT world.

“NexStep helped me get to where I am and assisted with what was needed, from guiding me through all the processes and applications. It would have taken much longer if it hadn’t been for the program.”

She is pursuing a bachelor’s in cyber security at Wichita State University with a prospected graduation date of Fall 2026. Once graduated, Cecilia hopes to find a job in the Wichita area to stay close to family.

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