For Anabell, a senior at Achievement First Amistad High School, graduating means making her family proud.
“My parents came from the Dominican Republic wanting to give their kids a better future and that’s what they did with me and my brother,” says Anabell. “They are proud of both me and him because we’re both doing great things.”
She credits Achievement First (AF) for helping her succeed, both in elementary and middle school at AF Bridgeport Academy and in high school at Amistad. “I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do what I did in a different school because I was so used to the system through middle school. Going to a different high school that doesn’t have that same program would’ve been really difficult for me to do.”
“It was a lot of work for the past four years to get me where I am today,” said Anabell.
That success started early for Anabell. “When I was really young I was a C+/D student. But thanks to AF, fifth grade was the first time I made dean’s list,” she said. “It showed me that with some guidance and a push, I could really focus and get the grades I knew I was supposed to get."
Some of the best guidance Anabell’s received has been from her favorite teacher, Mrs. Labarces. “She’s always been really open with her students, and she really tells us her experiences,” said Anabell. “She opened our eyes to the fact that the world outside of AF is really different, and prepared us for that reality."
Anabell does something similar for new students as a member of the “Amistad Ambassadors.” “I’m one of the first people middle schoolers meet when they consider coming here. I really like doing it because it’s so interesting to think about when I was in their shoes, and then be able to tell them they have the ability to get through high school too.”
When speaking to those students, she offers some advice: “Don’t judge everything at first glance. A lot of things seem routine, boring, and strict at first, but they go a lot deeper – the skills I learned my freshman year helped me a lot my senior year.”
On the other side of the coin, Anabell looks up to two people as role models: her brother, and artist Shakira. “My brother became a Marine and always taught me that if I want to do something, there’s nothing stopping me,” she said. “Everything that he decides to do, he does it. That’s really been an inspiration to me.”
“Shakira, even though she became a star, she still cares about people and is a big humanitarian,” said Anabelle. “She’s that person that always fills a room with grace and warmth. I’ve always liked that.”
When she grows up, Anabell doesn’t want to be a Marine or a singer -- she wants to be a neuropsychologist.
“I want to work in a lab to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases,” she said. “When I was younger I really wanted to help people and figure out what makes people tick – I got interested in psychology and now I want to study neuroscience in college.”
She’ll do just that at Connecticut College next year, and hopes to have her own practice after graduating. “I also want to help people who have different issues, from soldiers who have PTSD to teens with depression,” said Anabell. “I want to help people get better and see the things they don’t see because of the issues they’re having.”
With her tireless work ethic, dedication to helping others, and love of learning, there’s no question Anabell will be successful next year at Connecticut College, achieve her dreams, and much, much more.