Jacquelyn Ricardo, ESE 4+1 Major
When Jacquelyn Ricardo began college in California, she entered with the intention of studying children’s ministry. However, once she began her classes she realized that it wasn’t her calling.
She began to pray that God would show her what He wanted her to do, and in the meantime she moved to Florida “just for adventure” and attended a community college. After a while she began to apply to various universities in Florida, but once she stepped onto the SEU campus, she knew she had found her new home.
Called to Teach
Shortly after Ricardo began classes at SEU, God reminded her of her childhood desire to be a teacher. This happened after working with a young autistic boy in her church that the other children’s ministry volunteers had been struggling to connect with.
“He was my favorite,” she said enthusiastically. “Relating to him and teaching him seemed to come naturally to me.” This experience inspired her to start researching special needs and disabilities, and she found herself thinking “why doesn’t everyone want to do this?” It was then that she realized teaching these types of students was what God was calling her to do.
Mentors Made the Difference
Once she knew her calling, Ricardo didn’t have to look far to find the support she needed at SEU to start making it happen. “All the professors here are caring, Christian, open people who pray for and encourage me in my calling,” Ricardo said. “Because of them I gained the confidence to know I could do this.”
To Ricardo, this is the benefit of attending classes here and having the chance to establish those types of relationships. “You’re not figuring everything out on your own. And, my professors have made me feel at home even though my family is across the country,” she shared. “They are molding me into the best version of myself.”
For example, as a result of going on a study abroad trip, Ricardo developed a friendship with the Paton family. Teresa Paton, an assistant professor in SEU’s College of Education, encouraged her to complete her field study in Exceptional Student Education (ESE), and then served as Ricardo’s advisor when the field study helped her decide to change her major from Elementary Education to ESE.
The ESE 4+1 program at SEU was a natural fit for Ricardo. By adding just one additional year to her undergraduate studies, she will graduate with her bachelor’s and master’s degree in ESE in the spring of 2018. “I love SEU and I’m already here, so I figured why not give myself additional education so I can serve my students even better?” She is as passionate about researching the educational needs of the disabled population as she is about teaching them, so her eventual goal is to earn a doctoral degree. This program is paving her way.
The ESE 4+1 program was the first of its kind to be offered at SEU. The new Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at SEU has an Advanced-Standing option that takes approximately nine months to complete. This means that students who complete their Bachelor of Social Work at SEU can follow a similar path as the ESE 4+1 students, graduating with both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in a reduced period of time. SEU is currently exploring options like these in other academic disciplines.
The Right Path
When Pathways School of Excellence opened at SEU and Ricardo was able to serve there as a paraprofessional, it further proved to her that she was right where the Lord has called her to be. The staff at Pathways have become a second family to her. “I draw so much from all members of the Pathways team,” she said emphatically. “I have such high respect for their experience, their professional credentials and ideas.” Ricardo notes that the team also prays and does devotions together before each school day, and she considers it an honor when one of her ideas is incorporated into the classroom.
She spends as much of her time as possible volunteering within Pathways, assisting the teachers by working one-on-one with students who need additional attention or behavioral redirection, grading papers and even providing on-on-one tutoring.
“I got to see the progress of a student on the autism spectrum who came to Pathways with very little English-speaking skills or reading abilities, and he had no confidence in himself,” she shared. “He is now reading voluntarily, loves school, and his parents are amazed and thrilled.”
“Seeing that, and helping contribute to his success, was literally the best thing I have ever been part of.”