Spotlight on Seniors: Stephanie Nunez’s Education Comes Full Circle

By Rachel Morrison

When Stephanie Nunez ’19 was just a sophomore, she petitioned to go abroad a year earlier than most Scripps students. She had recently completed her Core III course Foreign Language and Culture Teaching Clinic, taught by Professor of French Thierry Boucquey, and was eager to get a jump start on a cross-cultural, language-teaching experience.

Four months later, she was teaching English classes three times per week to first graders in Madrid, and the course of her life was determined.

“After my time in Madrid, I knew I wanted to focus my interdisciplinary humanities major on how language plays a role in education, and how the U.S. is lacking in language opportunities for students,” says Nunez, who is majoring in interdisciplinary humanities and minoring in Spanish, and whose senior thesis explores the potential of bilingual education for the future of democracy in the U.S. “First graders abroad were able to express themselves, their feelings and their thoughts, so well in a second language, but my sixth-grade students in the U.S. couldn’t say more than what food they wanted.”

But Nunez’s insight into the power of education doesn’t just come from hard work and study: It’s something she gained through firsthand experience.

Nunez was a participant in Scripps College Academy (SCA), an intensive, multiyear precollege program for high-achieving young women with limited resources who seek to become the first generation in their families to attend college. Nunez attended a rigorous summer residential experience on the Scripps campus just after her freshman year of high school as well as monthly programming through her senior year.

“That’s how I learned about college access and the power of women’s education,” says Nunez. “Before coming to SCA, I had this this idea that college meant community college, not a four-year university—my parents are immigrants and I’m a first-generation college student.” Nunez was mentored by a Scripps senior on everything from how to approach college applications and essays to facts about college access to ACT prep. “I didn’t plan to come to Scripps, because I felt like I already knew everything I needed to know about the College—I wanted to go far away—but when the acceptance letters started coming in, Scripps’ offer was the only one that had me jumping up and down with excitement!”

That excitement has come to define Nunez’s four years at Scripps. Once enrolled, her first order of business was to give back to SCA by helping the next generation of high schoolers. She started as a driver for the program, picking up and taking home SCA students, and then moved into working as a facilitator/summer intern for three years, helping to develop academic and co-curricular programming. In this capacity, she lived with SCA students during their summer residencies, facilitated discussions, and helped them learn how to write a college-level research papers.

Nunez has also held a position in Denison Library for three years, an experience she credits with furthering her deep immersion into campus culture. “Working at Denison has given me the opportunity to work year-round—I never really leave Scripps! And because I’m local, I’m often a first point of contact for potential students.”

Perhaps more than many, Nunez understands the mindset of prospective and new students. “When I arrived as a first-year, I was so surprised by the culture shock I experienced, because I had known the school for years through SCA and I grew up 20 minutes away—I had even been coached about potential culture shock,” she reflects. She quickly found Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE), a campus center that works to build an inclusive community through social justice programming with an emphasis on intersectionality. “They did so much to help me adjust at SCORE that by my second semester, I had become treasurer and a leader, working hard to understand the experiences of students of color as a young student myself.”

Now, Nunez plans to take her wealth of experiences and apply them to the world beyond Honnold Gate. This summer, she will begin the Teacher Education Program at Claremont Graduate University (CGU), with the ultimate goal of crafting education policy for the state of California. One of the things that drew her to CGU was the program’s emphasis on teachers’ immersion into classrooms. “In order to bring change, you have to know the schools—the students. So many people helped me in my education, and I want to do the same for others.”