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Elk Grove senior reflects on opportunities that helped her discover her future

From joining co-curriculars to interning at local elementary schools and taking early college credit classes, Samantha Pelaez has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way at Elk Grove High School.

This weekend, Samantha graduates with a clear picture of her next steps.

As a Harper Promise Scholar, she will attend Harper College at no cost to earn her associate’s degree. She will then transfer to a four-year university, where she will study to be a teacher – a career she explored through District 214’s Career Pathways program.

“Taking those classes in the Education Pathway really helped me narrow down my options.”

— Samantha Pelaez

“I’m just really excited,” says Samantha, a first-generation college student, of her future.

Over the last four years, Samantha has been involved in all aspects of Elk Grove, from playing on sports teams such as cross-country, track and field, basketball and volleyball. She is a member of the school spirit group EG Nation and volunteers in the community through Elk Grove’s Leadership Through Service class.

As a freshman, she signed up for the Harper Promise Scholarship program, which lets eligible students earn up to two years of tuition if they meet certain requirements, including completing community service and maintaining solid grades during high school.

Samantha learned of District 214’s Education Career Pathway when she was a sophomore. She had long thought about becoming a teacher, and had a conversation with her school counselor when seeing other students in an introductory education class.

“When she signed me up for the (introductory education) class and we started working with the preschool, I fell in love,” she says.

Her junior year, Samantha continued taking classes in the Education Career Pathway and gained a better understanding of what it takes to be a teacher.

This year, Samantha has taken the Education Academy course, the advanced class in the Education Pathway. The class has given her the opportunity to intern at a junior high school and two elementary schools in different areas, including special education and bilingual education.

She now knows she wants to major in bilingual elementary education and minor in special education.

“Taking those classes in the Education Pathway really helped me narrow down my options,” she says.

“The classroom experiences really helped me see what grade I want to teach,” she says. “You definitely are the teacher there – you’re lesson planning, you’re attending meetings, you’re interacting with the staff. It  definitely helped me develop a connection with my cooperating teachers.” 

Samantha has also taken Advanced Placement and dual credit classes, which have given her a better understanding of the rigor of college. Dual credit courses, she says, helped her improve her time management skills and learn how to advocate for herself.

Looking back at the last four years, Samantha says she is grateful to all those who believed in her and created opportunities to help her find success.

“There were days when I was hesitant but I’m glad I pushed myself, as did my teachers,” says Samantha. “If I had the chance, I would tell everyone thank you.”