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Omar Valerio ’11

 

Omar Valerio ’11

omar-valerio2Omar Valerio ’11 (LaSalle Academy) graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2015, earning a B.S. in Sociology with a concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice and minors in Writing and English. “Sociology intrigued me,” he says. “Simply by living in this world, I felt an obligation to further understand the social machinations that I am a part of daily. I felt that if I became educated about what is around me, I would in turn be learning about myself.”

Currently Omar is working toward his M.Ed. in Urban Teaching from Providence College and expects to earn his degree in 2017. His career aspirations have changed since he completed his undergraduate degree. Over time he began to understand that, instead of policing his community, his calling was to build lasting relationships with young people by becoming an educator. “As a Latino man who was born and raised in Providence, I am passionate about providing a high-quality education to urban youth,” he says. “Constantly reflecting and scrutinizing my craft, as well as learning from both my mistakes and successes, my goal is to be the best educator I can be by maintaining the mindset that I am a student first. I attend Providence College so that I can continue to learn the specialized teaching methods needed to help close the achievement gaps in the diverse and urban communities that I grew up in.”

Omar is employed as a School Learning Specialist at the MET High School in Providence, where he works individually with students to maximize their learning. He is also an instructor for The College Crusade’s Saturday Cru Club program and Ways to A’s program for newly enrolled Crusaders. “With the MET High School and my work with The College Crusade,” he says, “I can describe my experiences of working with scholars in one word: connected. When I walk into the classroom, I have an overwhelming feeling of belonging. I look around and there are boys wearing the same sneakers I wear, and girls listening to the same music I listen to. We use the same slang and even share the same interest in sports. I hear the same loud cars driving by on Friday nights, and I go to the same food trucks parked all along the side of Broad Street. Like all of the things my students and I have in common, we often share similar stories of struggle,” he continues. “These struggles are things that have shaped my life and the lives of my students. Knowing we are so alike, my students are comfortable opening up to me about their issues. They trust me and know that I want the best for them. Reflecting on this classroom atmosphere, I believe that because my students and I have an open line of communication and they know I care about them, they feel that their thoughts and feelings have real value. It is this attitude that promotes learning and a trust system that encourages positive social interactions and self-motivation. The only way to grow is if you feed the soul,” he adds.

Omar is thankful for the time he spent as a Crusader and for the Crusade scholarship that helped to support his undergraduate career. “I cannot say enough great things about The College Crusade,” he says. “What I valued the most was seeing other students who came from communities like mine trying to create a better future for themselves. Being surrounded with students who were college bound, in programs like the Crusade Adventure & Academic Program, motivated me to push forward for myself and my community.”

In his free time, Omar loves to work out. He finds that the activity keeps him mentally and physically sharp but is also good exercise for his attitude. “Other than the obvious plus of being in shape, it helps to remind us that with smart-hard work, we can achieve our goals,” he says. “Like life, working out requires a solid plan. If you go in blind you will not achieve the same level of success as if you went in with a purpose.”

Omar had a great experience in college and passes along a lot of encouraging advice for Crusaders who are just starting out. “College will be an awesome time in your life,” he says. “For many of you it will be the first time you will be away from your parents. What I love about college is that it gives you the space to explore what it means to be you, while still providing the safety net of having professional support. Most of my learning came outside of the classroom and oftentimes happened when I met new people.”

His advice:

  • Meet new friends.
  • Build strong financial credit.
  • Enjoy it. If you are not enjoying it, reflect on what is holding you back.
  • Get involved. This will help you grow, as well as building your resume.
  • Step out of your comfort zone and try new things! The only way to grow is if you feed the soul.

And these last words: “Everything is easy. What seemed hard was something simply not mastered. Remember that at one point tying your shoes was impossible, but with lots of practice, guidance, and patience the impossible became second nature.”

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