Isaac Montiel

Isaac Montiel never imagined he would have the opportunity to earn an associate degree before he even finished high school. However, that is what he is on track to do.
The seventeen-year-old is part of Hostos Lincoln-Academy’s (HLA) Early College Initiative (ECI), which provides high school-aged HLA students the opportunity to earn anywhere from three credits to an Associate in Arts at Hostos Community College. He learned about the program shortly after transferring to HLA from a vocational high school during his sophomore year. Enrolling in the program was a no-brainer. “I knew about the benefits and the opportunities of graduating with an associate degree, so I took that path,” he said.
Montiel, whose career goal is to become an electrician or mechanic, has enjoyed taking a variety of courses at the College—including anthropology, film, and criminology—and discovering new interests and skills along the way. In particular, he credits Professor Stephen Cerulli with sparking his interest in history and says interactive courses like theater and communications have helped him become a more confident public speaker and comfortable with initiating conversations with others. 
Through it all, the Liberal Arts major has earned excellent grades and currently holds a 4.0 GPA. However, he admits juggling high school and college courses while maintaining his grades has been challenging, particularly over the last year. “It hasn’t been easy, and the pandemic has definitely changed things,” he said. To cope, he’s sharpened his time management skills, often tackling his high school assignments during the day and college work in the evening. He also regularly communicates with his professors outside of class. “I’ve made it my goal to push myself to communicate with them,” he said. “When it came to certain assignments, I’d reach out to ask questions. I would ask for help whenever I needed it. There was also a room next to the Writing Center where some professors would be available to help or tutor students, and I’ve used that method for certain classes. For instance, for statistics, I would stay either an hour or half an hour to prepare for exams or to ask questions about assignments if I have them.”
He encourages his high school and college classmates to do the same, particularly when they feel overwhelmed, lost, or like their motivation waning. “Take a moment to assess reality, be realistic with yourself, and observe what it is that you need help in and what you’ll need to succeed,” he said. “Take any help you can get, like at the Writing Center. Everything is there for you. Accept people’s help.” 
After graduation, Montiel plans on enrolling in a vocational training program and looks forward to gaining new technical skills. He is grateful to HLA and the College for helping him flourish as a scholar and as an individual, and he strongly encourages his peers to maximize their opportunity to do the same. “It’s been a blast. If anyone is offered an opportunity to take college courses, they should definitely take them. These programs are out there, and it would be helpful if more people were aware of what they have,” he said.