Position: After School Paraprofessional
School: Cleveland Elementary
School District: District of Columbia Public Schools
City, State: Washington, DC
Brianna Nargiso was nominated by an anonymous family member.
While she was in high school, Ms. Nargiso experienced the struggles of being 17 and alone in the world. The soccer star, academic powerhouse and community activist came to a halt during her senior year in high school, when it felt like the world stopped. Little did anyone know the strength she would come to find in herself, as she used the fuel from her pain to persist on and accomplish the unthinkable.
Throughout her senior year in high school, she worked two jobs, was her high school soccer captain, and ranked 25th out of 780 students in her class, all while launching her first nonprofit organization. Her nonprofit was geared toward giving children in her community an after school program where they could spend time, learn, share and have fun. They were taught creative outlets, communication skills alongside music theory, how to play instruments, how to act, and how to speak publicly. With this organization, she was able to help many children in the community who had been written off. Because her program was free and took place after school, many children stayed off the streets until their parents clocked out of work or returned home. This prevented those children from abusing drugs, perpetuating violence, or hurting themselves.
Creating this program at only 17, Ms. Nargiso was destined for greatness. Now, at 20 years old, she currently attends Howard University in Washington DC, as she continues her fight for advocacy as a paraprofessional at a high need Title 1 school in the Shaw community of Northwest DC. Before working for DC Public Schools directly, Ms. Nargiso worked for AmeriCorps Jumpstart, providing better academic opportunities for preschoolers in disadvantaged communities. It was through this program that she realized the disconnect and shortage of staff for the afterschool program. Motivated to fill the void, Ms. Nargiso applied to work as an afterschool paraprofessional for the following year.
After she secured the position, Ms. Nargiso began teaching kindergarten. She enhanced students' social-emotional learning and communication skills, stimulated their critical thinking skills, and taught both contemporary dance and hip hop classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
She enhanced students' social-emotional learning skills by teaching them about social justice issues. She listened to their solutions and showed students that regardless of their socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, they have the right to spot discrepancies and peacefully communicate the wrong in them. Her students have learned about historic black and brown activists, writers, athletes, speakers and lawyers. They have learned about Parkland, Trayvon Martin, HBCUs and have learned to not only connect themselves to the realities of this world, but to promote and impact change.
Through Ms. Nargiso, students have received tons of tutoring, academic reinforcement, extra help, and the confidence to know they can do anything and learn anything! She challenges students critically by presenting real-life scenarios and asking for their leadership and input.
“I need students to see themselves in spaces not traditionally with them in mind. If they only look at what’s happening around them in this community, they’ll never believe they can surpass it," said Nargiso.
Finally, Ms. Nargiso has enhanced the presence of clubs for the afterschool program. She has ensured that every grade be enrolled in a club they find most interesting. Whether it be digital coding, arts and crafts, exercise, crocheting or dance, all students are offered options. Ms. Nargiso has chosen to teach both contemporary and hip-hop dance classes. This has exposed many low-income students to classes that normally wouldn't be available to them. With the dance program, she hosted a family engagement night, where the students take on a leadership role and teach a parent or friend the dance they've learned. This was the first packed family engagement night Cleveland Elementary has seen in years!
"At only 20 years old, Brianna Nargiso balances her community impact, a full time job and full time college schedule," said her nominator. "She does it all with grace and never slacks. She is a LifeChanger who has impacted the children she works with, their families, and the dynamic of the school she works at!"