Alyssa Alvarez

Alyssa Alvarez – Collier High School Class of 2009

“Collier prepped me for the ‘real world,’” recalls Alyssa Alvarez. “When I [graduated], I fell flat on my face and realized I needed to change. So I looked back on what I learned at Collier, and figured out what I needed to do.” Although Alyssa’s self-assessment may be overly critical, like so many young people, she simply needed to try a few different paths before finding the one that was right for her.

After graduating from Collier, Alyssa attended Brookdale and graduated with an Associate’s degree in Social Science before realizing that was not what she wanted to do. While at Brookdale, though, Alyssa suffered a stroke at age 19 that left her partially blind in her right eye. “It was devastating at the time,” reflects Alyssa. “It is very challenging because I do not have peripheral vision, so I sometimes bump into things when I’m walking around and have to be very careful driving. I don’t drive as much as I would like to because of it.”

After determining that her studies did not lead to a career she wanted, Alyssa

became a personal trainer but later discovered that was not her calling either. She is currently working in logistics for a freight company, and will be graduating from dental school to be a hygienist very soon. “I always liked the medical field, but couldn’t handle [being] a nurse so this is good. I will still have a health field background.” Alyssa is also in the final stages of joining the Army National Guard Reserves, through which she will train one weekend a month in preparation for possible deployment.

In reflecting on her Collier experience, what stands out the most for Alyssa is the support she felt as a student. “Collier helped with the transition from teen to adulthood, because they were there holding your hand. I learned how to cope when I have anxiety.” She is also clearly grateful for the support she continues to receive from Collier staff, including teacher Kristin DiStefano and counselor Barbara Raffel. “I’m 25 years old, and I still call them when I need help!” laughs Alyssa. “The staff are still there for you even though you’ve graduated.”

Alyssa also offered sage advice for current students or those considering Collier. “In public school I was really shy and nervous, but at Collier no one made fun of you in a cruel way. Everyone was so nice that I could just be myself.” She encourages students to challenge themselves to grow into the person they are meant to be under the guidance of the Collier community. “Take advantage of the time you are there because it’s not the same when you leave,” advises Alyssa. “You know yourself better than anyone!”