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My Student Experience: ‘Everything I Do Has Helped Me Either Become a Better Educator, Help Me Celebrate My Culture or Just Meet New People and Get Experiences I Would Not Have Originally Had,’ Says Elementary Education Student Jessika Patel ’21

Jessika Patel

This is part of a monthly “My Student Experience” series in which the NC State College of Education highlights the student experience through profiles, stories and videos.

Relocating to the United States at a young age and assimilating into a new culture while preserving her Indian traditions provided Jessika Patel ’21 with a global perspective on life and a high cultural competence. That has shaped who she is as a person and as a college student.

With a passion for dance, art and education, Patel has found a way to merge those interests as a senior elementary education major at NC State. She serves on the executive board for the Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN) and Education Council, is a College of Education student ambassador, a member of the South Asian Student Association and part of Nazaare!, a competitive dance team.

“Everything I do has helped me either become a better educator, help me celebrate my culture or just meet new people and get experiences I would not have originally had,” Patel said.

Patel has always been inspired to pursue a teaching career. Her grandfather is an art teacher in India. And she plans to follow in his footsteps in the future by pursuing an advanced degree in art education, but first she wants to be an elementary school teacher.

“I have a love for children and I want to make a difference in their lives. Being a teacher not only helps you firsthand impact the lives of children, but you also get the opportunity to experience the individuality that each child brings to the classroom,” she said.

Patel has loved working with children since she was in middle school. She was a volunteer with the YMCA Youth Center, the Ronald McDonald House, summer camps in the town of Carrboro and in the children’s book section at the public library. And that passion for helping others and giving back to her community has carried over into her experiences at NC State.

Through her clases, Patel had the opportunity to tutor students in reading at the Hispanic Family Center.

“This experience was one of the most unique because I was able to see myself from when I was little, and I am now able to understand my parents’ struggle in moving to a new country with little language experience and little knowledge of the education process, but still wanting nothing but the world for their children,” Patel said.

With a heart for helping others and a love for different cultures, Patel plans to enter the Peace Corps — a goal she’s had since she was a sophomore in high school. And she hasn’t ruled out applying for the Fulbright Program. But she plans to teach abroad in a Spanish-speaking country for two years because she desires to work with English language learners when she returns to the United States and wants to be fluent in the Spanish language.

“I want to be a teacher who understands her students and is able to relate to them, and if not, try to. I want to have representation of all types in my classroom and be able to provide my students with the best possible education, in a fun and educational way,” she said.

And if ever given the opportunity, Patel says she would like to work for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.