JEIMY IBARRA

Be There Awardee helps high schoolers adjust to a new culture

“I try to be there for them, and let them know they’re not the only ones with struggles.”

United Way’s Be There initiative promotes excellent school attendance to students so they will have greater success in school and more opportunities following graduation. Jeimy Ibarra received one of this year’s “Be There” Awards for going above and beyond for local kids at Casa San Jose.

Jeimy, still a college student herself at Carlow University, understands the importance of attendance and having a positive role model. “Growing up, I didn’t have a mentor to look up to, so I know how it feels to be sort of on your own. Especially being Latina in Pittsburgh, a lot of students feel like no one understands them. I want them to know I’m here for them, and I get it,” Jeimy said.

Jeimy got started with Casa San Jose when she was involved with AmeriCorps. Now, she is part-time with the organization while she finishes her college degree. She also runs an after-school program, Saturday program, and helps with advocacy efforts for high school students.

“We’re learning about each other’s cultures. I help them with homework, listen to their concerns, and I teach them about how they can advocate for themselves and their families,” Jeimy explained.

Since starting this programming, Jeimy has seen a change in the participating students, including many of the kids applying for college. “We’re helping the kids understand the importance of school. Coming from Latino culture, some of their parents have a different outlook on school and education. We have noticed the kids in our program taking their homework and attendance more seriously.”

Not only that, the kids in Jeimy’s programs have made friends with each other and have a sense of belonging. “Before coming to the after-school or Saturday program, the kids knew each other, but they didn’t realize how much they had in common,” she said. “It’s so great to see how a lot of them have really opened up and gotten more comfortable.”

To learn more about United Way’s Be There initiative, visit /be-there/.

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