Celebrating YES Prep's 25 years of impact, we share the incredible journey of Elizabeth Zarate '10 – a YES Prep alumna from North Central Secondary, staff member and now a parent to a YES Prep student. Elizabeth's story is a testament to the transformative power of education and the enduring impact of YES Prep on individuals and families.
Background and Early Education
Elizabeth Zarate was born in Mexico and arrived in the United States at the age of eight. Growing up in a hardworking family that prioritized education, Elizabeth became one of the first in her family to graduate from college. Her parents' pursuit of a better future led her to YES Prep, a decision that would shape her academic and professional trajectory.
Discovering YES Prep
Elizabeth's introduction to YES Prep came through a former 5th-grade teacher who advocated for alternative educational options beyond the zoned middle school. Elizabeth's family, valuing her education, researched and applied to YES Prep. A home visit from Mr. Jason Bernal, one of YES Prep’s foundational leaders, solidified her decision, as she learned about YES Prep's mission and vision, paving the way for her transformative journey.
A Rich Educational Experience at YES Prep
As a YES Prep student from 6th to 12th grade, Elizabeth thrived in an environment where teachers cared not only about academic success but also about the personal growth of each student. Community service played a pivotal role in shaping her experience, fostering a sense of responsibility and engagement with the broader community. The unique Saturday school model and the requirement of community service hours for spring trips set YES Prep apart from traditional educational institutions.
Extracurricular Involvement and Graduation
Throughout middle and high school, Elizabeth actively participated in community service, serving as an ambassador, a COLT camp counselor and an Impact Scholar. Graduating in 2010 as a member of North Central's first graduating class, Elizabeth went on to pursue a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Psychology at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.
Choosing YES Prep for Her Family
As a Reading Intervention teacher at YES Prep Fifth Ward, Elizabeth witnessed the challenges some students faced with reading. Motivated by a desire to provide her son with a better experience, she enrolled him in YES Prep's elementary program, aiming for a school where he would be valued, cared for and academically challenged. This decision marked the beginning of Elizabeth's role as a YES Prep parent.
Parental Experience and Impact on Her Child
Elizabeth's experience as a parent at North Central Elementary has been positive. She emphasizes the importance of advocacy and open communication with teachers and the leadership team. Her son's love for school and the close relationships he has developed with his teachers are testaments to the positive impact YES Prep continues to have on the next generation.
Returning as YES Prep Staff
Driven by a desire to give back to the community that shaped her, Elizabeth joined YES Prep as part of the Operations team at Fifth Ward. Over the years, she served as a reading intervention teacher and the Section 504 Coordinator. After a brief hiatus, she returned in 2021 as an Executive Assistant at North Central Elementary, where she feels proud to be part of the YES Prep family.
Hopes for the Future
Looking ahead, Elizabeth envisions a bright future for her children, hoping to see them graduate from college and pursue successful careers. Her journey, from a YES Prep student to staff member and now a YES Prep parent, encapsulates the essence of YES Prep's mission – providing opportunities and opening doors for generations to come.
Elizabeth Zarate's remarkable journey reflects the enduring legacy of YES Prep as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. From a young student seeking educational opportunities to a dedicated staff member and a parent shaping the next generation, Elizabeth's story embodies the transformative impact of YES Prep on individuals, families and communities. As we celebrate this milestone, we recognize and honor the profound legacy created by individuals like Elizabeth within the YES Prep community.
Families interested in applying for enrollment for the 2024-2025 school year can sign up for the student lottery 24 hours a day through February 18 at yesprep.org/sayYES.