Meet UPchieve’s second full-time staff member!
Hello everyone! My name is Mark Espinoza, and I am UPchieve’s new Operations Coordinator! I am incredibly excited to join UPchieve because I will be working to solve the challenges that I both experienced personally and witnessed countless others face as a low-income high school student.
I grew up in Garfield, New Jersey, a lower-income community with a large immigrant population. Myself and many of my friends were second-generation immigrants, with parents who came from countries all across the globe. Despite differences in culture, we were united by the experience of being the first in our families to go through the American education system and having parents that spoke little to no English.
This commonality had a profound impact on our lives, especially when it came to schoolwork. In third grade, I remember going home with a reading assignment that I didn’t understand and finding out my parents couldn’t help me. By high school, even my math courses were beyond their ability to support me. It was distressing for both my parents and me to realize that if I couldn’t figure out my homework late at night, I wouldn’t have anyone to turn to for help.
I also witnessed firsthand the inadequacy of the support systems available outside of students’ homes. While in high school, I was a part of a club called the Math Honors Society, and one of my responsibilities was to go into school early in the morning and tutor other students. This in-school tutoring was extremely underutilized by students, even those that were severely struggling in math. When I asked my peers why they didn’t show up, they explained that the time and structure was incredibly inconvenient for them. They were balancing schoolwork, part-time jobs, and other extracurricular activities. When they had questions on their homework in the evening, they’d stay up late trying to figure it out. One hour of tutoring at school the next day just wasn’t good enough.
I was fortunate to always do well in math, and I would ultimately graduate high school and go on to attend the University of Pennsylvania. However, I saw many of my peers fall farther and farther behind in school because they didn’t have the time and access to the services that could have helped them catch up. I’m passionate about working at UPchieve because I know UPchieve could have helped change the trajectory for many of those kids and will for many more to come.