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December 8, 2014

Arlyne Rodriguez joined the YMCA San Diego’s Urban Teacher Fellows (UTF) program in 2013. UTF assists students who want to become future educators in underserved urban neighborhoods in San Diego. The program supports students while they are enrolled as a liberal arts major at San Diego City College. Once the students complete the transfer requirements for liberal arts, they gain automatic admission to San Diego State University (SDSU) to continue their education.

Arlyne was initially a little unsure about stepping out on her own to pursue teaching, so she decided to try a couple of liberal studies classes at City College. After her first semester, it was clear to her that teaching would be her path. 

UTF Case Manager Kelly Randall helped Arlyne embrace the value of the program even during tough personal times. Arlyne attended work-readiness trainings, which helped her secure a job as a youth leader in the YMCA’s PrimeTime after-school program. Less than a year later, Arlyne was offered a site supervisor position, boosting her confidence and motivation to teach.

Not only did the UTF program help Arlyne learn about teaching but it also helped her make strong connections with other students and improve her communications skills. Randall noted that the program helped Arlyne learn how to better manage stress, seek out resources, build trusting relationships and, most importantly, gain independence and confidence to follow her dreams. “Being a part of the UTF program has helped me discover her true passions,” she says.

Arlyne says the UTF program has helped with her motivation to work hard in school and at YMCA PrimeTime. She was even student of the month and employee of the month in October. “I am amazed at my achievements because I never win at anything,” Arlyne says. “Even though times are hard, I am still dreaming big because it is possible to succeed.”

Arlyne is currently in the process of transferring to SDSU, where she plans to continue pursing her career as a teacher. She credits her UTF team for believing in her and helping her with this big transition in her life. “I call Kelly my ‘UTF Fairy Godmother’ because she is always there for me even when she is not working. I am honored to have UTF in my life.” 

A Career Pathway into Teaching Model, San Diego UTF is a collaborative project with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, YMCA Youth & Family Services, San Diego City College, San Diego State University and The Children’s Initiative. UTF has assisted more than 100 students since it began in San Diego in 2010.

All UTF students must be between 17 and 21 years old, live in the San Diego metro region and have an interest in changing the lives of children. Additionally, the students are WIA-eligible (low income, at risk, out of school, with barriers). Barriers to education and employment may include being a first-generation high school graduate, homeless or runaway, pregnant or parenting, former foster youth or disabled.

The YMCA is currently poised to recruit, select and support 150 WIA-eligible students in 2014-2015 through six cohorts of about 25 students. For more information about enrollment, please visit the UTF website or contact Megan McCarthy at or 619-281-8313.

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