Twenty-seven-year-old Alejandra Moreno is a woman on a mission. As assistant director of New Opportunities in Education, Alejandra challenges students to learn and love to learn, to want to succeed and accomplish that success.
A Rebellious Teen
Many boys and girls come New Opportunities in Education, NOE, because their parents forced them to go. They resent being there.
Alejandra understands because twelve years earlier, she sat where they do now. A rebellious teen from a poor town, Alejandra had nothing but disdain for school. In her view, teachers were the worst people. They cared about one thing—getting paid.
“They didn’t care about me. They didn’t care about giving us kids love and knowledge. They didn’t care about their subjects. In a lot of classes, the teacher walked in, sat down, read a book and then told us to answer questions.”
None of that translated well for Alejandra’s education. She struggled so much that she moved to live with her aunt and uncle in the bigger city of Morelia. But her aunt and uncle didn’t have much luck with Ale either.
After some research they found an after-school community program that taught English and values and helped kids with their homework. Alejandra wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
Exasperated, Alejandra’s aunt finally said, “Either you go to the after-school program and improve your grades, or you do laundry, dishes, and chores around the house for all seven of us.”
Fifteen-year-old Alejandra threw a fit. “I already go to school all day! Why do I have to do more school after school? Whatever!”
But her aunt was insistent. She knew that education in general and learning English in particular is the ticket to a better life in Mexico.
Her aunt won; Alejandra lost; Alejandra’s glad she did.
Discovering the Mission
“At New Opportunities in Education, NOE, I found good friends. My teachers actually cared about me and my life and wanted a relationship with me. They cared about my grades and teaching me too. Eventually I learned about Jesus and knew what it was to have a relationship with God and be a part of a spiritual family.”
Ale’s grades soared. Several years later she graduated from high school. After she’d moved back to her home village, her mom immediately noticed a change.
“Why are you so different? You used to be so rebellious. What happened?”
The answer was easy. “I told her God was restoring my future and my identity,” Ale says.
Ale was accepted into college and graduated with a degree in architecture and worked for two years as an architect. When a teaching position opened up on NOE’s staff, Ale jumped at the chance to be the same change in other kid’s lives as other teachers had been in hers.
Change in Action
Besides spending her days teaching and coaching, Ale has discovered the best way to encourage young students is living by example and teaching with excellence.
“I try my best to show God’s love and the value of being a good citizen. I want to challenge girls to be respectful of themselves as a woman. Be respectful of other girls and their teachers. Even small things like where they put the garbage can be a way to encourage them to be respectful of those around them and their environment.”
Ale is known for pushing students to excel. “Can you give more?” she challenges them.
If a student is failing a vocab test, she wants to know why. Not only why they can’t spell the word right but what’s going on behind their struggle.
“I will sit down and ask, ‘What is happening? In order to pass, you have to take time to study.’ But I recognize that often something more is happening. What’s going on is a reflection of what’s going on in their personal life.”
“My heart and my commitment is with NOE and this ministry. It transformed my life and the way I understood education and faith. To invest back is the least I can do.”
This woman on a mission is never looking back.
Alejandra answers a few other questions
What was life like in your small town?
Our town had 5,000 people along with lots of cows, chicken, and pigs milling around on mud streets. We had a couple of buses. People from other smaller towns would come there to buy bread. Life was laid back and easy but very poor as well. Alcohol and drugs were a huge problem. There were few opportunities. Schools were not good. I was in a class of eight, but we at least had a teacher per grade. In other smaller towns, there might be one teacher for two to three different grades.
Why is learning English so important in Mexico?
It is very important! If you want to graduate from college, you need to have a certificate saying you can understand, write, and speak English. Without it, you can’t get your degree. Most jobs ask for a certain English proficiency level. If you want to succeed and move forward, you have to do well in English.
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