Aseneth Ruiz is a counselor at Joliet Central High School, where she mentors ESL students – the same school she attended as an ESL student in the late 1990s. After Joliet Central, Ruiz attended Joliet Junior College, where she gained the confidence she needed to succeed.
Here are five facts about JJC alumna Aseneth Ruiz:
(1) She grew up in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico.
Ruiz's parents had accomplished careers back in Mexico: her father, a chemical engineer, and her mother, a nurse. But even though they were successful, they wanted a better life for their family, so they made a big decision to immigrate to the United States.
Ruiz, a middle child of an older brother and younger sister, was a little nervous about the change. Moving to a country where she didn't know the language was nerve-wracking, but she was also eager to think about the type of life she could lead in the United States.
"It was obviously bittersweet to leave, but I was excited about moving and not knowing what to expect," she said.
(2) She and her family moved to Joliet when she was 15.
Ruiz said it was tough, attending Joliet Central High School as a 15-year-old Mexican immigrant. Being a teenager, learning English, and staying on top of her schoolwork took a ton of energy – but she had help and encouragement from her teachers. One English teacher noticed that she enjoyed reading, even though she was just learning English, so she'd give books to Ruiz to read at home.
Ruiz also credits her Joliet Central teachers for inspiring her to attend JJC.
"A lot of my friends and teachers really pushed me along, and kind of saw that I wanted to go to college," she said. "I relied on my teachers to guide me and answer my questions."
(4) Ruiz benefited from the Project Achieve program while a student at JJC.
When Ruiz began her freshman year at JJC, she had only been living in the United States for three years. Ruiz was a little apprehensive about college, but she knew she wasn't alone.
She took advantage of one of JJC's academic resources, Project Achieve, which allowed her access to free professional tutoring, specialty counseling, and tools that encouraged her to stay in school.
"I feel like Project Achieve really helped me get good grades. I spent a lot of time with them. They were nice people and we had a good relationship. Sometimes it's hard to develop those relationships when you're only there for two years, but they make an effort to be there for you and be involved," she said.
(4) She enjoys being a counselor at Joliet Central High School because she gets to help students that remind her of who she was as a teenager.
After transferring from JJC and getting her bachelor's at Lewis University, Ruiz became a teacher for Plainfield District 202. She enjoyed working with students in the classroom, but felt that something was missing. It was then that she realized her true passion – after she had received so much guidance and help from her counselors, mentors, and teachers, she knew she wanted to do the same. So, she went back to school to get her master's degree in counseling.
Now, as a counselor at Joliet Central, she has truly come full circle. It's especially rewarding, according to Ruiz, to work with students who were just like her as a student.
"I think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing and that feels really good," she said. "I'm doing it for more than just a paycheck – I believe it's my mission to help others. When I run into former students, it's great to see them being successful."
(5) Her advice to new JJC students? Don't be scared.
Ruiz knows starting college can be scary – but she advises them to branch out and be brave.
"Go out of your comfort zone and ask for help," she said. "Be bold – this is your time to learn new things, to meet new people, and to form connections."