Gifted: First-Year Student Thankful for Her Educational Opportunities

By Tom McLaughlin

Like many of her fellow peers, Alma Aparicio alternately moves between bouts of nerves and excitement these days as she ponders her first steps toward pursuing a college degree.

aparicioportraitNonetheless, says the incoming first-year student at Rutgers University–Camden, regardless of the challenges that she’ll face, she is ready to fulfill a lifelong dream – one that she feels has added significance, and admittedly more weight on her shoulders, as the first person in her family to attend college.

“I’ve always had it in my mind that I would earn a college degree,” says the Camden resident and 2015 graduate of the LEAP Academy University Charter School. “My parents have given so much for me to have the opportunity that they never had and I plan to give back to them. I am going to make something of myself and make them proud.”

As Aparicio recalls, from an early age, she gained a profound understanding of the sacrifices that her family has made – and the momentous journey that she took with her mother – to even make her dreams possible.

A native of Puebla, Mexico, Aparicio and her mother, Cirila, immigrated to Camden – in search of a better life – to live with her uncle when she was three years old. Her mother later met and married her stepfather, Ambrocio, who has been a father figure to her, and the couple welcomed her siblings, Kevin, age 10, and Jocelyn, 6.

aparicio-copy1Grateful for the opportunities that she’s been given, Aparicio has never failed to take advantage of them. She just completed the engineering track in the LEAP Academy’s competitive-entry STEM program, finishing in the top 10 percent of her class. During that time, she participated in the dual-enrollment program, a program that enables LEAP Academy students the chance to take classes at Rutgers–Camden and earn both high school and college credits, earning an “A” in her introductory psychology course during her senior year.

This past summer, she also successfully completed Rutgers–Camden’s Aim High Academy, a precollege program that enables rising high-school seniors to prepare for the rigors of college while living and studying on campus.

aparicio-featureWhile balancing her studies and work – she currently serves as a barista at Starbucks in Rutgers–Camden’s Campus Center and as a hostess at Silver Diner in Cherry Hill – Aparicio still makes it a point to give back to others. For the past two years, she has served as a youth leader at her church, Iglesia Cristiana Pentecostal de Camden. In addition to leading weekly bible studies and classes, she helps to organize volunteering activities, such as visits to the Abigail House for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Camden and the church’s annual March Against Violence.rut

Aparicio now hopes to expand her volunteer work as a Rutgers–Camden Civic Scholar, while receiving invaluable mentorship and guidance through Rutgers–Camden’s Leadership Institute.

While she hasn’t chosen a career path just yet, she sees herself making a change in the community – whether it’s in Camden or perhaps even in her native Mexico.

“I am content with making others feel content,” says Aparicio. “It makes me whole when I know that I am helping someone else.”


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