Grand Island Public Schools has chosen two Grand Island Senior High graduates from the Class of 2020 for the PathBack Program. The two were celebrated on Monday during a virtual reception.

Brandy Guerrero and Alma Garcia are the seniors who were selected for the program. Each recipient will have a GIPS educator as a mentor through their college education.

Lauren Schumacher, education and life skills teacher in the GISH Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety, will be Guerrero’s mentor. Jake Redman, social studies teacher in the GISH Academy of Education, Law and Public Safety, will be Garcia’s mentor.

The PathBack Program offers seniors an opportunity to come back and teach for GIPS upon completion of their teaching degree.

“We have to think about the future workforce for the field of education now more than ever. Students are part of our larger ‘ecosystem’ at GIPS, so to say,” said GIPS Superintendent Tawana Grover. “These students know they have a clear path back to their community and are supported as they progress toward their career goals.”

Bonnie Hinkle, GIPS Board of Education president, said the board is happy to present Guerrero and Garcia with this year’s Pathback opportunity.

“We wish them luck in their college careers, and look forward to them joining the GIPS district in a few years,” Hinkle said. “The Pathback program is an important piece of our strategic plan and will benefit our students in the future and for years to come.”

Brian Kort, GIPS recruiting and retention coordinator, leads the program. Kort said the program is a benefit to the recipients not only because they will have a job waiting for them after college, but because they will also receive mentor support and professional development opportunities from GIPS.

“The district wants to support both PathBack recipients during their college career and help them in any way possible,” he said.

Guerrero plans to attend Central Community College to earn her general education credits before transferring to the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She said she would like to become an elementary teacher, and hopes to teach at the same school she attended: Stolley Park Elementary.

Guerrero said she has wanted to be a teacher since she was little. She said she babysat “for a couple years” before landing her current job at Twisters Gymnastics where she works with kids.

“I found my passion for working with kids through the jobs I have been encountered with and the courses I have studied at Grand Island Senior High,” Guerrero said. “Education has sparked my interest because I hope one day I can help the education department grow and help students succeed.”

Garcia plans to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney for her teaching degree. She hopes to become a math teacher.

“There are various factors to why I want to become a teacher. The main one is to simply help students reach either full potential, to help them grow and learn so one day they can become our future leaders,” Garcia said. “I believe teachers play a huge role in the lives of kids, which is a role I want to take upon myself.”

The program does not lock the recipients into taking a job with GIPS if they want to explore other options.

“But it does give them the opportunity to come back to GIPS and give back to the next generation of students,” Kort said.

Grover said the PathBack program provides real-time connection and opportunities for the participating students.

“I’m thankful to our Board of Education for having a continued focus on having our graduates return to Grand Island as educators,” Grover said. “We are incredibly proud of Brandy (Guerrero) and Alma (Garcia), and through this program we will make sure they have the support they need in order to become an educator.”

Garcia said she applied for the program because she “thought about the idea of coming back to Grand Island and being able to play a role in the school system that helped me grow...I had teachers who have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.”

Guerrero said she also is proud to have gone through GIPS and is excited to come back to teach.

“GIPS has stood out to me in a number of ways: the teachers are kind and willing to help, and the district has created a safe learning environment,” she said.

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