From Suspension to Star Student and Mentor

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The Facts

Every principal has a handful of students he or she will never forgot, whether they’re exemplary students or “problem” students. Then-sixth grader Jescely Castillo Camara was one of the stand-out students for STEM Launch’s previous principal Kellie Lauth.

As a middle school student, Jescely she was at the epicenter of dramatic incidents. She and her friends were often the catalyst of fights, bullying and classroom disruptions. Jescely was more focused on her self-doubt and belonging than academics. She was suspended twice and faced expulsion by the middle of her sixth grade year.

Rather than continue down the disciplinary road, Kellie and her staff sought other ways to support Jescely. The hope was that using her klout, Jescely could have a positive impact on the classroom and female students with a similar mindset.

The Method

When Jescely returned to school after her second suspension, Kellie invited her to become a student ambassador. Student ambassadors bridged the school and student community by mentoring fellow classmates and addressing issues within STEM Launch.

Jescely unhappily attended ambassador meetings at first. Each week, she sat closer to the front of the room. After a month or two, she began sharing her opinions and offering ideas. Her teachers reported less classroom disruptions and Jescely wasn’t facing nearly as many disciplinary actions once she became more engaged in the program.

The Solution

As Jescely entered seventh grade, she continued her work as a student ambassador, becoming more excited by the leadership opportunities and experiences. Showing so much drive for mentoring, Kellie asked her to become a counselor for STEM Launch’s Camp Ignition - a program for new students - and the Thinking Project, a social and emotional learning-based (SEL) camp for middle schoolers. This was just the beginning of Jescely’s leadership roles.

The Results

Over the next two years, Jescely became one of STEM Launch’s top students. Her grades drastically improved and she moved on to be a student at Northglenn High School, where she continues to take on leadership roles. Since starting the ambassador program at STEM Launch, Jescely has:

  1. Become a Latina mentor for girls having difficulty in school

  2. Spoken on behalf of STEM Launch and Northglenn High School

  3. Written and received a grant to bring free physicals to Northglenn

  4. Established herself as an ambassador for mindSpark Learning

  5. Taken summer opportunities to present problem-based learning (PBL) projects