Sodelys Hilario always knew she wanted to work with kids. It wasn’t until she came to SUNY Potsdam, however, that she realized she was meant to be a teacher.
As a senior majoring in early childhood/childhood education, Hilario has had the opportunity to work with children of different ages, both as a mentor in the College’s Rebecca V. Sheard Literacy Center, and as an assistant in the Child Care Center on campus. Those experiences, along with her work at summer camps when she returned home for breaks, confirmed to her that she has made a good career choice.
“I got to know the kids I worked with very well,” she said about her experience working one-on-one with children in the mentoring program at the Literacy Center. “It was a good way to learn how to work with children of different ages.” Although she really liked mentoring “the really little ones,” she said, she was surprised that she really liked working with fifth graders as well. Hilario is still undecided as to what grade level she will end up teaching.
More than anything, though, Hilario has been inspired by her own teachers. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, she moved to the United States when she was 14, and said she was fortunate to have found good teachers here. “I do not want other students to feel like outsiders because of their background, like I did when I first moved to the U.S.,” she said.
It was one of her high school teachers who suggested that she consider applying to SUNY Potsdam. “I never thought I’d go that far to college,” she said, but after visiting campus she really liked the environment, as well as her professors and the new friends she made soon after arriving.
Last semester, Hilario had another great learning experience as a Resident Assistant in Bowman Hall—something that she said helped to get her out of her comfort zone. “In order to develop strong relationships with my residents I had to get out of my shell. I am also more comfortable dealing with emergencies and speaking to authorities now. Additionally, with this position I really got to understand the importance of a community,” she said.
In addition to her responsibilities as a full-time student and resident assistant last semester, she was busy completing her practicum hours at the St. Regis Mohawk School for her teaching degree. “My experience at the St. Regis Mohawk was definitely my favorite activity this semester. I completed around 50 hours in a second-grade classroom. What made this time at the Mohawk school so enjoyable was how welcoming my sponsor teacher and the students were. Although I only spent a couple of weeks in this second-grade classroom I learned so much about the students and about myself as a teacher. I also became a lot more comfortable with being in front of the classroom,” Hilario said.
To round out her junior year, she was also actively involved in the Diversity Ambassadors and Mentors Program (PDAM)—a pilot program to address diversity issues on campus. As part of the program, she attended multiple workshops focused on diversity awareness. In the fall, she will be working directly with the Potsdam community to address diversity issues.
Hilario is very grateful for her education at SUNY Potsdam, especially to the sponsors of the scholarships she has received, including the Cecelia Rock Scholarship, the Pay It Forward Scholarship and the Friends of Potsdam Scholarship.
“My family and I are very grateful for these scholarships,” she said. She is also thankful to the staff in the College’s Financial Aid Office who helped her find solutions when she faced a serious financial setback. “They really care about students. I didn’t know what to do. I would not have been able to go back to college at all (without the scholarships),” she said.
Recently Hilario had the opportunity to meet some of the people who have funded her scholarships, who she says are “amazing people.” Chances are, they feel the same way about her, too.
Article by Nancy Griffin, Hon. ’08, Photos by Jason Hunter