By Walter L. Johnson II
Her journey has taken her from her native Puerto Rico, to various locations from along the East Coast of the United States, from the South Bronx of New York City, to Florida, and even a stop in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.
Albany Technical College Dean of Admissions Lisandra De Jesus says it’s her passion for helping first generation students get a college education that brought her to southwest Georgia.
“What brought me here to Albany, Georgia,” De Jesus said, “was the opportunity to help first-generation students in a work force development community, and institution.”
DeJesus added: “Albany Technical College is one of the most relevant colleges focusing on workforce development in southwest Georgia. So for me, the transition meant the opportunity to serve more students in that capacity.”
DeJesus was recently selected as one of Georgia Trend’s “40 Under 40,” a prestigious honor recognizing some of the state’s much successful young people. DeJesus being recognized by Georgia’s leading business magazine can only serve to help ATC become one of the top institutions of its kind in the state, if not the nation, said public relations director Wendy Howell.
“This is definitely an honor for Lisandra and Albany Tech,” Howell said. “Georgia Trend is a well-known publication in the state of Georgia, a very credible publication, so the fact that she was chosen out of all of the people who applied is a great honor for her, and for Albany Tech.”
Howell added, “She has brought a lot a great ideas to Albany Tech, and continues. So, I think her input can only help us to continue to grow and develop, especially on the side of admissions and student services.”
First-generation college student
Being the first person in her family to graduate from college, De Jesus said she initially had mixed feelings about accomplishing such a milestone.
“Looking back at it, it was very, very exciting,” De Jesus recalled, adding that it was “kind of scary, and when I was in high school, it was very questionable. I didn’t know if college was something that I could pursue, because I didn’t really know anyone else in my family that went to college, amongst my cousins, my parents had a high school education.”
“The only people that I saw with college degrees,” explained DeJesus, “were like my high school guidance counselor, whenever I saw them. But I just didn’t see people who looked like me with (a) college degree, whom I could talk to about college.”
“So, going to college was a brand new experience. It was kind of ‘nerve-wracking.’ But, I made it through, and I might I say I made it through very well with the help of a program that was then called an ‘Educational Opportunity Program’ (EOP), for very talented, very academically talented students, from the inner city.
“I was able to join the EOP summer bridge program, and attend the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, that opened a brand new world for me, and a whole totally different experience. I could say I was probably home sick for my first, freshman year, the entire freshman year. But then, after a while, I adapted better, to living away from home. There are so many dynamics that go into the picture of going away to college, when you’re the first one in the family to do that.”
Reaction to “40 under 40” award
When asked about her reaction upon learning she was named one of Georgia Trend magazine “40 under 40” recipients, De Jesus replied, “At first, I was like in awe, I was amazed. I couldn’t believe it.
“But I had a little bit of knowledge of the nomination,” she added. “I understood that hundreds of people were nominated. So I accepted the nomination very humbly Then, when I was actually selected in the top 40, I was very, very excited. I thought about my humble beginnings, my high school, my family, and what a long way I have come, as well as what I’m doing in the community and (ATC), for southwest Georgians.”
Additionally, De Jesus says that winning the award is an honor that has opened new doors to reach out to potential college students.
“Going to college is possible for each and every one who wants to go to college,” she said. “That even, for example, you don’t have a high school credential yet, Albany Technical College can help you get that G.E.D. credential.
“From there, we will also help you transition to college, whether it is a field like nursing, or building maintenance, or computers, or automotive, or many of the over 160 programs that we have. We are here for the community; we are here to introduce you to higher learning, if you have not experienced it yet.”
Everyone can start back at college
De Jesus, who is scheduled to graduate from the University of Florida with a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in 2013, challenges prospective students to think about what want from college, as well as to explore the opportunities that Albany Tech provides.
“For us, and for Albany Tech,” De Jesus said, “I think that the future is very promising. We are the most relevant workforce development college (in the Albany area).”
She added: “I just want everyone to really, reflectively, think about their contributions to the community. Everyone could do it. Everyone can start back in college, and I here to assist them, and my staff is here to assist them. I could not have done any of things, or the accomplishments that I have accomplished without a great team.
“I invite (potential students) to come, and check us out, and visit, take a campus tour, and I promise them that will be very, very pleasantly surprised with the opportunities at Albany Tech.”
On The Web:
Albany Technical College: www.albanytech.edu
Georgia Trend Magazine: www.georgiatrend.com