Program Inspires Rochester Student to ‘Pay It Forward’
By Joseph Bailey ’15
When asked why she’s here at the University of Rochester today, Abigail Gonzalez ’16 will most likely reply that were it not for New Pathways for Youth she’d probably still be back in her hometown, Phoenix, Ariz. It’s because of programs like this that troubled youths can beat the odds and attend institutions of higher learning like Rochester. Gonzalez comes from a family of modest means, and throughout junior high and high school depended on the counsel of her mentor, Ellen Dean, assigned by the program. Dean would help her with homework, career searching, and networking. A poster child for the program’s success, Gonzalez was invited to return to Phoenix in February to serve as a guest speaker at the organization’s annual breakfast.
The program has undergone several name changes in the time Gonzalez has been involved in it, both as a mentee and as a returning alumna. First, it was called Arizona Quest for Kids, was later named Phoenix Youth at Risk, until program administrators settled on New Pathways for Youth, taking out the word “risk” altogether.
It’s programs like New Pathways for Youth that allow bright young minds like Gonzalez to flourish and do real good in the world. Like many students at Rochester, she came in with the mindset of becoming a doctor, but also like many students, came to the realization that pre-med was not for her. Now a business major, she has aspirations to begin a foundation. Right now, she enjoys the small, personal, diverse environment of the U of R. Her favorite class is Spanish. She feels that in spite of her Latino heritage, she never really learned to read and write Spanish well, and now she has an excellent opportunity to change that. Gonzalez participates in several undergraduate councils, including SUBS and MAPS, and is an active member of PAWS. Around campus, you might run into her working at the counter at Hillside Market.
When Gonzalez returned to Phoenix, she represented both the University of Rochester and the influential program that got her here. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to learn that in 10 or 20 years, she has established a new foundation for troubled youth, coming full circle from being on the verge of trouble herself.