Brenda Pulgarin: From Student to Alumni Leadership Council Champion


Brenda Pulgarin was a  2018 summer intern at the Citizen Schools headquarters in Boston, serving on the External Engagement team. Her role consisted of analyzing volunteer survey responses and updating contact records in our database. Brenda attended the Edwards Middle School and is now a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

When I was eight years old and in third grade, I moved from Colombia to the US. I didn’t understand why there were so many different grade levels, such as: elementary, middle, and high school. When I was ready to enroll in middle school, my mom decided on a school that she thought would provide me with the best education. She decided to send me to the Edwards Middle School because it was an expanded learning time model. During sixth grade, staying late at school wasn’t desirable to me because I just wanted to go home. However, I later realized how the resources Citizen Schools offered was preparing me for my future. Since Spanish is my first language, I was struggling with English and my academic performance wasn’t the best it could be, but with extra help I was able to take my learning to the next level. Also during sixth and seventh grade, I was able to find extracurricular activities that I was passionate about, such as soccer and was able to try different apprenticeships like: swing dance, basketball, stepping, study hall and Stand Strong. This helped me realize my strengths and what I want to focus on in the future.

During my last year of middle school is where I learned so much through an apprenticeship called “Word Generation.” In this class, I learned about the different high schools we could apply to and how.  I never knew about the extensive process students needed to go through in order to get accepted into high school, standardized tests like the MCAS, or that to get into private and parochial schools we needed to pay to take a tests like the SSAT and ISEE. I really wanted to get into a high school of great quality to make my family proud, but I didn’t know how to take these tests or what I needed in order to take them. However, in “Word Generation” and during writing class, Shruti, one of my Citizen Schools mentors(AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow), found me and my peers three tutors to help us get prepared to take the SSATs and she provided all of us with a writing coach to work with us on writing our high school essays. Being provided with this opportunity was incredible because writing high school application essays was a very difficult process for me. My writing coach always advised and taught me how to organize my ideas and she helped me with my grammar and punctuation. This was the most helpful program that I was a part of and any student could benefit from. I was able to get into multiple high schools with the guidance from my mentor and writing coach, including: Cathedral High School, Fontbonne Academy, Beacon Academy, Cristo Rey High School, and the John D O’Bryant School.

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As I transitioned into high school, Citizens Schools offered another program, the Alumni Leadership Council (ALC) for students that still wanted to be involved. The ALC helped me build and improve my resume, which was required to get a summer internship. I never knew what a resume was or how to create one until my mentor taught me. My mentor showed me examples of what supervisors wanted and didn’t want to see in an applicant’s resume and they assisted me and many other students in the ALC in learning how to apply to jobs and prepare for interviews.

Citizen Schools wants to help prepare students for the real world. It would have been a challenge to get this summer internship without the support of my mentors, so for that, I am grateful.