Balancing classes, extracurricular activities and a job are no easy feat, especially all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, but senior Ashley Figueiredo has found the secret. She attributes her success here at Kean to her ability to set prominent goals for herself and keep motivating herself to achieve them.
Figueiredo has been at Kean for six semesters now, and has been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout her entire education here in addition to making Dean's List every semester. She is an early childhood education major with a teacher of students with disabilities endorsement and a concentration in music. She is also a platinum leader in the Leadership Institute as well as a mentor in their Leader2Leader program.
Additionally, Figueiredo holds an executive board position as public relations coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Club as well as the coordinator position for their Mentors in Education program. Her other extracurricular activities include being a member of the Kean University Concert Choir and the Kean University Wind Ensemble.
Her passion for music and the arts stemmed from her father, as he has been a pianist since a young age. Her parents encouraged her to dance from the age of five, and then to become a member of the school band. When entering middle school, she used her love of singing and dancing to audition for the school's productions. She has been involved in all of them until she completed her senior year of high school, in addition to band.
When coming to college, Figueiredo knew that she wanted to major in early childhood education because her mother also earned an early childhood education degree and is now a Pre-K teacher. She explained that growing up, she and her sister would always pretend to be teachers and her love for the subject grew as she continued through her major's K-12 curriculum.
Figueiredo said, "When I got into high school I was very involved in theatre and marching band and they gave me a lot of leadership roles. I found that in those roles, when I was teaching other people and helping them out, I was really good at it and I loved it, so that’s what kind of made me think, ‘Maybe I should be a teacher.’"
She explained that since she will be working with younger children that she will incorporate music into her lessons as this will keep them entertained while retaining the information.
While music is part of her major, Figueiredo explained that she also uses music as an outlet during the semester.
She said, "I feel like if I get really stressed with my education courses or just thinking about college, I’ll work on my piano pieces, clarinet or singing and it makes you forget about that because you’re like, ‘Okay, I need to learn this song.’"
The Leadership Institute is a program at Kean that allows exceptional students to develop leadership skills that they will be able to use through their time at Kean as well as after graduation.The program also allows students to get to know their peers and obtain community service hours. Figueiredo is a platinum leader, meaning that she is in the fourth and final level of the leadership certification program with the institute.
Through the Leadership Institute, Figueiredo is a part of the Leader2Leader program where she mentors a younger student through the struggles that they may be facing while adjusting to college. She claims that this has helped her tremendously with her time management skills.
Additionally, she explained how she will be able to use all of these skills in her career field. Figueiredo said, "As a teacher, you have to have those leadership skills and I’d like to think I’ve had those since I was in high school, but I definitely think being in [the Leadership Institute] has helped those skills to grow. In my career you need that. You need to know how to take charge of a group of children, or even if you’re working with your colleagues."
Figueiredo has also gained new skills from her time as public relations coordinator in the Early Childhood Education Club, which seeks to do community service that pertains to children as well as provide professional development to the members. She is responsible for spearheading their Mentors in Education Program, which she modeled after the Leadership Institute's Leader2Leader program.
She said, "It is actually inspired by the Leader2Leader program that we have in Leadership because I did it last semester in the fall and I saw how much it was helping my mentee. I really enjoyed it, reaching out to her and hanging out with her, and so I brought it up to the president."
She continued, "I send out surveys and see how it’s helping them and I see that, for the mentees, they’re like, 'I’m finally getting the answers I was looking for,' and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make it so that it was very easy and accessible."
When she is not at a club meeting, in class or studying, Figueiredo also works as a swim and water fitness instructor, as well as a choreographer for Burnet Middle School and Union High School.
She said, “I love it because I always said to myself, if I get a job I want to make sure that I'm strengthening future skills.”
She continued, "I feel so lucky that I have all of these jobs that are helping me for exactly what I want to do."
Overall, Figueiredo emphasizes that although having a lot of commitments can be stressful and even taxing at times, the way she stays motivated is to keep excelling at her goals, and proving to herself that she is capable of achieving whatever she sets her mind to.