/Putting Classroom Lesson to Use in the ‘Real World’

Putting Classroom Lesson to Use in the ‘Real World’

‘Nicolle’ Aponte: ‘SUNY Oswego opened the doors of education for me’

By Steve Yablonski

Edissa Cuevas “Nicolle” Aponte enrolled in CRJ300 online, intrigued by the SUNY Oswego course’s content.

“It’s been a couple years since I’ve been working in the field of human trafficking. I started volunteering back when I was in the Dominican Republic,” Aponte said.

She wrote an essay about how she wanted to focus her career in human trafficking back at her community college. That’s been her career focus ever since, she added.

“I was born and raised in a humble household in the south of the Dominican Republic. I learned English when I was 17 years old and started law school at the same time,” Aponte said. “[In 2016] when I was 19, I came to the U.S. to start an associate’s degree in Tompkins Cortland Community College.”

“I have to say that I struggled a bit because my English level was not that high. However, I got to graduate in one year with honors,” she added.

Because she was an international student, she did not have many chances to keep studying.

“I worked with juveniles in the meantime,” she said.

She teaches ESL and science for unaccompanied minors in a shelter. The students, 12-18, come from Central America.

“In 2019, I was granted residency and with that came the chance of going back to school,” she said.

She enrolled in SUNY Oswego because “it was the college that recognized most of my classes from the Dominican Republic.”

She had applied to multiple schools and her education in law did not count.

“So, it is fair to say that SUNY Oswego opened the doors of education for me,” she said.

She currently lives and works in Dutchess County and attends SUNY Oswego remotely.

Aponte started in May 2021 as a criminal justice senior and is scheduled to graduate in May 2022. She will have a bachelor’s in criminal justice, “thanks to SUNY Oswego accepting my hard-earned credits from the Dominican Republic,” she said.

While in SUNY Oswego, her advisor, Melissa Semione, walked her through every step she needed to take to achieve the goal of graduating in a year.

“She approached me as holistically as a person and not only as a student. I am currently going through divorce, work full-time and have a toddler at home. I am happy that I will be meeting her in person in May,” Aponte said.

During her second semester in Oswego, she took “one of the most important classes of this year, to me, CRJ300 human trafficking.”

“I have been working with this population for many years now, so it made sense. During this class, I worked on a project to educate and create awareness of human trafficking in my community,” she said.

It was near the end of the semester that students were assigned action projects by Omara Rivera-Vazquez. The project required students to take action and bring information about human trafficking to the community.

“Dr. Rivera gave us options for the project, but also left one open,” Aponte said. “According to what I’ve learned in class, the students I work with are at great risk of human trafficking. I decided if there is someone that needs this information, it’s right here where I’m working.

Aponte took her action project and lesson to 30 students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, and taught the class in Spanish.

“The students I work with, they speak Spanish, but some are still not that literate in Spanish because their native languages are still Mayan dialects,” Aponte explained.

She had to simplify the United Nations definition of human trafficking in order for students to understand the concepts.

“I am very proud of myself for this project. I have mentioned to my human trafficking teacher that I would like to get started in a career focused on the prosecution, detention or any other way of combating human trafficking,” she said. “Unfortunately, I am not a citizen yet, and this is a requirement to work for state or federal agencies. I am hoping to get my citizenship in the next two to three years.”

In the meantime, she is looking to pursue a law degree or masters in international criminal justice.

“I have a lot to thank SUNY Oswego. I do feel that my school has prepared me for a big future,” Aponte said. “My inspirations right now are my family in the Dominican Republic and my son, Matteo. I also consider my adviser as my support when school and work get hard.”

Featured image: Nicolle Aponte, under the leadership of criminal justice professor Omara Rivera-Vazquez, participated in an action project that saw Aponte educating to 30 Spanish-speaking students on human trafficking.

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