“I want to break stereotypes and show people that I have control over my life.”
Serving Her Country with a Growth Mindset
Celine Aviles participated in BUILD for all four years of high school as a student at the Community Academy of Science and Health in Boston. She served as Chief Financial Officer for Sleeve Ups, a business that sold customizable athletic sleeves – an entrepreneurship experience that paved the way for her incredible success in college.
Celine graduated from high school with an acceptance to the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston campus, which she deferred for 1 year to pursue a career as an Information Technology Specialist in the Army National Guard. “When I first made the decision to join the military and defer a year, I was very nervous and doubted myself at times during my training. What always reassured me was focusing on my goals for the future- I knew I was servicing my country while learning valuable job skills that could potentially land me a job anywhere.”
She applied the social-emotional skills she learned from the BUILD curriculum to succeed in settings that took perseverance and goal-setting while facing environments that presented multiple challenges. “One of the most challenging aspects of joining the Army was being told I could not do something because I was female or that I was unable to perform as well as male soldiers.” Celine transformed these stigmas into a source of motivation to consistently do her best. Her supervisor, Lieutenant Kanwar Singh, stated:
“She is motivated, hard-working, and focused. Celine doesn’t shy away from new learning opportunities. She is exactly the kind of solider that strengthens MA National Guard, and helps advance our mission.”
Today, Celine is bringing the same grit and growth mindset she developed in BUILD to her studies as a Biochemistry major and Honors College student at UMass Boston. As a member of the First Year Leadership Institute, she is practicing the foundational skills introduced to her through the BUILD curriculum such as collaboration, networking, and public speaking.
On A Mission to Transform Our Health Care System
Celine knew she was passionate about a career in the medical field after doing a self-reflection exercise in identity exploration as a BUILD student. What surfaced were memories from when she was younger and she started understanding how some of the barriers in the medical system affected her family.
She reflected on the quality of the medical support that was available to her mother in Dorchester, “I didn’t have much insight when I was younger into what doctors did, but I wondered if my mom had better care for sickle cell anemia, would she still be alive today?” This question stuck with Celine as she immersed herself in studying all things science-related to dedicate herself to transforming the health care system.
How Entrepreneurship Prepared Celine for College Success
In BUILD, Celine learned the skills she needs to stay focused on her goal to improve health outcomes in her community. This is perhaps the most important takeaway from her BUILD experience: “There are so many distractions on campus. I’ve seen people get disconnected with why they are in college and what their purpose is. My advice to students is to remember the purpose behind why you’re here.”
As a young entrepreneur, Celine strengthened her self-management skills so she can now focus on her academics in college and she created connections with mentors who are supporting her on her mission to create a better health care system.
One of those connections is with a mentor, Professor Kristin Murphy at UMass. Professor Murphy met Celine during one of her Honors College courses where college and high school students worked collaboratively to explore social issues including mental health, racism, mass incarceration, and equity in public schooling experiences in urban communities.
Celine described how this class helped her connect experiences in her own neighborhood to systemic inequities. She used what she saw in her environment to sharpen her vision for the future she wanted for herself and her community. “Growing up, I heard narratives that made it seem like I didn’t have control over my future or I was supposed to follow a path that others had already taken. I wanted to break the stereotypes and show that I had control over my life.”
Celine immediately stood out as a leader among both high school and Honors College students. Grit was the undercurrent to her drive and focus. Professor Murphy said:
“The intelligence, leadership, and positive attitude she displayed during the semester is exactly what each of us hopes to cultivate in the students we work alongside as professors.”
We’re proud that Celine continues the mentoring tradition and gives back to her community by mentoring Boston Public School students through a UMass program. We look forward to the day when she may be a mentor in a BUILD classroom too!
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