Cal State Fullerton Alumni Panel

On Dec.¬†2nd,¬†current Jumpstart¬†members¬†form Cal State Fullerton gathered in the¬†campus¬†Student Union to hear from¬†Jumpstart¬†alumni¬†during the¬†Alumni¬†Career Panel. The event opened with a welcome and introduction from Site Manager Katie Herbst. She introduced the Alumni panel,¬†which¬†consisted¬†of¬†young¬†professionals¬†ranging¬†from¬†a first-grade¬†schoolteacher to a¬†child and family therapist. You can find full bios on¬†the alumni¬†panelists¬†below.¬†¬†Before the start of the breakout sessions, each¬†panelist¬†was given time to¬†explain their current¬†career.¬†¬†Each member was¬†then¬†able to¬†select¬†their breakout session based on¬†which careers they were interested in learning more about. The¬†two¬†20-minute¬†breakout sessions¬†allowed¬†members to¬†each¬†hear from¬†two¬†of the panelists. After the breakout sessions,¬†everyone reconvened for a large group Q & A.¬†¬†The event closed with ‚ÄúOne Thank You,‚ÄĚ where¬†each member wrote one thank you¬†note¬†to one of the panelists. The event successfully engaged members and¬†alumni¬†by¬†allowing¬†alumni to continue to be¬†a¬†part of Jumpstart¬†by¬†sharing¬†their story and career path¬†while¬†also¬†providing¬†members with¬†the opportunity to¬†network¬†with¬†professionals in their¬†fields of interest.¬†¬†

If you are interested in participating in a future Alumni Career Panel, please contact We will be hosting our next Southern California Alumni Career Panel in the Spring.    

Saira Abulkalam 

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study, etc.). I have my masters and multiple subject credential from UCI and my liberal studies degree with an emphasis on elementary education from CSUF. 

What is your current title and a short description of the position? I am a general education first grade teacher at Pomona Unified School District. This is my second year teaching. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path.¬†After I graduated with my bachelors, I took a year¬†off and worked as an instructional aide for Irvine Unified and as a tutor on the side. In winter of my¬†gap year, I applied for and was accepted into UCI’s MAT + Credential program and started in the¬†summer. I graduated 13 months later and on my last day of grad school, I had also signed my contract¬†with Pomona Unified.¬†

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart provided me with one of my first experiences in the classroom. Even though the students I served were younger than I wanted to work with, I gained a lot of experience that I could pull from when it came to future job interviews. The jobs I was hired for was because I talked about my work within Jumpstart and with each job, I gained more and more relevant experience. It also built a support system for me because I met other people who wanted to be a teacher and so we shared in that struggle together. 

What motivates you? I am motivated by the fact that I have 29 little brains counting on me to help them read and do math but most importantly, become upstanding global citizens. 

What are you most passionate about?¬†I am most passionate about learning something new¬†education-wise, and¬†being able to use it in my classroom to leverage my teaching. I love being able to¬†explore something with my students, even if we both don’t have any idea about it.¬†

Yvette López 

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study, etc.). Attended California State University, Fullerton for my Undergraduate program. During my time there, I majored in Child and Adolescent Studies with a concentration in Elementary settings. 

What is your current title and a short description of the position? I am currently employed by Human Services Association, through our educational program for working parents called Pasitos. I applied to be an associate teacher back 

in September 2018, but recently got promoted to be the lead teacher in April 2019. As a leader teacher I create my own 

lesson plans following the High Scope Curriculum. In addition, I am also responsible for DRDPS, parent conferences, and monthly parent meetings. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path. I am currently taking my CSET and CBEST, while applying to Graduate programs. My goal is to complete my Master’s degree and Teaching credential by the end of next year. Once I receive both, I plan on working in an Elementary school with children grades Tk-3rd. 

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart defined my career choice and really shaped the teacher I am today. It showed me skills I need in the job I currently sustain. In fact, all the skills I learned in jumpstart; leadership, flexibility, and time management, etc., prepared me for both the associate teaching job I initially applied to and the lead teacher position. Jumpstart was a great foundation for me, the program prepared me for leadership and gave me the qualifications that qualify me as a professional educator. 

What motivates you? The successful results of hard work are extremely motivating, but the children take the most credit for what motivates me every day. They are full of curiosity, seeing their smiles and hearing their comments when they finally accomplished things they have struggled with; such as grasping a pencil or balancing on foot are fulfilling. Such simple accomplishments can be the most satisfying to me. Someday I hope to be part of those who help close the educational gap in low-income communities. Being the change in someone’s education is fulfilling and really does keep you going and makes you love every single moment of it. 

What are you most passionate about? I’m extremely passionate about learning. There’s always space to learn, and it can open so many doors and broaden your horizons. Being able to travel, learn about different cultures, experience different environments, and talk to people around the world can really develop a deeper understanding of things. From traveling and experiences you get to grow as a person while having fun. At the end of these experiences you can bring all that 

knowledge and share it with your students in class or even incorporate activities in your lesson plans to engage your students in something out of their comfort zone. 

Vidalia Mena

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study,etc.). B.S in Child Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood, from Cal State Fullerton. 

What is your current title and a short description of the position? Community Outreach Manager at Pretend City Children’s Museum. As Community Outreach Manager I am responsible for planning, developing, implementing and monitoring all parts of the Screen Play Ready program. Screen Play Ready is a new initiative whose goal is to educate parents about child development, developmental screenings, and the importance of early intervention. I am responsible for building relationships with community partners such as Think Together, Family Resources Centers and Libraries. I am also responsible for creating and executing Lunch and Learn presentations to corporate businesses. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path. Prior to being at Pretend City, I was a Home-Based Educator for Early Head Start. As a Home-Based Educator, I provided in home education for parents and children 0-3 years old. I did weekly home visits where I implemented an in-home curriculum. I educated parents about their child’s development (5 developmental domains), health and safety, nutrition, and the importance of play. 

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart reassured me that being in the classroom was not where I wanted to be. Though I loved implementing Jumpstart sessions, interacting and teaching preschoolers, I did not see myself doing this long term. I really wanted to make an impact with parents/adults. Jumpstart really helped build my leadership and communication skills though being a Corps member and a team leader. 

What motivates you? I think what motivates me the most is knowing that I can do my part in shaping our future. Though it sounds very cliché, children really are the future. I want to be part of that future whether that’s teaching children directly, or educating parents and the community about the importance of investing in early childhood. 

What are you most passionate about? I am most passionate about educating parents and the community about early childhood. I want everyone to know how much growth, development and learning happens in the first 5 years of life. 

Edith Rodriguez 

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study, etc.). For my educational background, I decided to pursue a an education in Psychology as I had a great interest in the biology of the mind, cognitive 

processes, and the impact of social environments/interactions that construct the identity of an individual. I attended California State University, Fullerton for my undergraduate education pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Once graduating from my undergraduate program in 2017, I continued my education and applied for a Masters program for a degree in Clinical Psychology. I wanted to expand my education in the field of psychology, while at the same time working with individuals seeking support to better understand their life experiences. I was accepted into Pepperdine University following my undergrad, pursing a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family therapy with Latino/as. I recently graduated from Pepperdine University in May of 2019, and currently have my active registration with the Board of Behavioral Sciences as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. 

What is your current title and a short description of it? Following completion of my masters program at Pepperdine University, I was able to apply and attain a new job position as a Bilingual Clinician at Western Youth Services. I became aware of this position as 

I previously completed my clinical practicum with this agency in my last year of my masters program. In my current job position, I provide mental health counseling services to children and families within the Anaheim Elementary School District. Services such as individual, family, and group counseling, case management, parenting classes, and psychosocial workshops are also provided. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path. In regards to my career path, I started out by choosing an educational major that I was most interested in and that had a career I knew I would feel most comfortable in. I knew I wanted a career that involved learning about oneself and at the same time being able to learn from and help others. I knew I wanted to work in an environment that provided support and most importantly would help make a difference in the lives of children and families dealing with difficult circumstances from low-income Latino communities. Being a Latina female myself and growing up in a low-income neighborhood 

that exposed many children and families to violence, drugs, poor living conditions, and lack of resources, impacted my perspective to get to know what is out there for people who are in need. My goal has always been to find ways to provide support and instill a positive change for people by helping them reflect on their struggles, trauma, and create goals to be able to overcome their current living experiences. Through my education, practice, and use of bilingual skills, I want to continue to provide a supportive connection to those in need, so they can know that they are not alone. 

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart has made a great impact in my education and career in allowing me to cherish the experience of what it is like to work with children and families of low-income communities. From my experience in Jumpstart, I was able to strengthen many qualities and gain new skills that I currently use in my current job role. When it comes to educating and using interventions to work with children, Jumpstart definitely prepared me to be creative and establish positive healthy relationships with my clients. In addition, being able to have open communication with parents and staff, has allowed me to achieve great collaboration and participation with my clients and involve the family or teachers in the current treatment goals for clients. Overall, Jumpstart has impacted my career path in a positive way in that my work is something I love and enjoy doing everyday. Jumpstart was the bridge that helped connect me to know how I make the therapeutic experience for the 

children and families I work with something unique and special. 

What motivates you? Currently what motivates me to be happy and be the best that I can be are of course my family, partner, friends, and pets, but most of all it’s the children and families I get to work with. They keep me enjoying life at my fullest and push me to keep going and most importantly give me hope to do what I do best. Being able to see positive change happen right before my eyes through the work and treatment with my clients, gives me hope that there is always room for improvements to be a better YOU. 

Hailey Shenk 

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study, etc.). I received both my B.S. in Child Development and my Credential In Early Childhood Special Education from Cal State Fullerton. 

What is your current title and a short description of the position? I am an Education Specialist (Special Education Teacher), and I teach a preschool Structured Autism class. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path. While in undergrad I worked as a preschool aide, volunteered in Special Education classrooms, and was involved with Jumpstart, which all confirmed my love for teaching, specifically in special education. Since I knew this was the path I was interested in, I continued onto the credential program at CSUF and began teaching the following school year. 

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart was a huge part of my education and allowed me to apply the content I was learning in my courses, out into the real world. It also confirmed that I wanted to teach and be an advocate for young children and families. Jumpstart gave me confidence in the classroom and helped shape me as a teacher and professional. 

What motivates you? I am motivated by believing that the work I am doing is empowering my students and their families and by knowing that I can provide a safe, loving, nurturing environment for them to thrive in each day.6. I am passionate about providing early intervention and resources to families of children with special needs! 

Katherine Zertuche 

Tell us about your education (highest level of education, schools attended, concentration of study, etc.). I graduated from CSUF in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services concentrated in mental health and substance abuse. 

What is your current title and a short description of the position? I am the Externship Coordinator at the national nonprofit affiliate, Girls Inc. of Orange County. I coordinate a business professional development program for over 100 girls from across Orange County high schools. We facilitate college readiness, financial literacy, and foundational business skilled curriculum to our participants while preparing them to apply their skills at their summer externship. 

Please provide a brief bio about your career path. Throughout college, I completed four internships (including Jumpstart) that focused on the field of human services. I also worked as a Peer Educator at CSUF’s WoMen’s Adult and Re-entry Center educating students on sexual violence while providing resources for survivors. Outside of CSUF, I worked at a summer camp in Big Bear as a counselor and a director. After I completed by studies at CSUF in December 2018, I started by position at Girls Inc. where I continue to grow with the organization. 

How did Jumpstart impact your education and career path? Jumpstart provided an opportunity to work closely with a team of creative and smart individuals who had a passion for educating our youth. I knew that I wanted to work with others who mimicked this same type of passion for education which led me to explore educational career opportunities, inside and outside of the school setting. While I loved working with little kids, I knew I had a greater passion for working with teens based on my experience with my summer camp. Jumpstart helped me realize that impact is possible, but teamwork is necessary. This has influenced my desire to achieve a management role within my organization within the near future.  

What motivates you? My passion for impact, influence, and education motivates me to support as many girls at my work by providing quality mentorships that create a trusting environment. I believe that everyone should feel supported and confident in who they are and what they want out of life. I take my beliefs and passion to motivate me to give back to my community. 

What are you most passionate about? I’m most passionate about women’s rights, more specifically those who are under the age of 18. Young girls grow up with gender stereotypes placed on their shoulders which may affect their confidence and self-love. With the work that I do, I’m able to help educate young girls on these gender stereotypes while encouraging them to question and analyze the affects it may have on their own life. When I see a girl start to stand up for herself and build her confidence, my passion for education continues to grow. 

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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