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We recently caught up with Cindy Tomeo, a 2014 alumna of the Associate in Arts Program in Wilmington, who graduated with her bachelor's in education in 2016.
Upon graduating from Glasgow High School in 2012, Tomeo was admitted to the Newark campus. However, wary of incurring debt, she elected instead to enroll at the AAP in order to take advantage of the SEED Scholarship.
Like many first-year students, Tomeo began her freshman year unsure about her eventual major. "I knew that I wanted to make a change and difference in the lives of others," she said. "I just wasn't sure what that would look like."
Tomeo's career goals soon began to crystallize, however, when she was inspired by a source close to home — very close to home, in fact: her mother.
"My mom is a teacher and she is my biggest role model, so I ended up working with her over a few summers as a paraprofessional to see what that would be like," Tomeo said. "I chose English education because I love how I can express myself through words. Words are a powerful tool, so I wanted to help others express themselves through writing as well."
After receiving her Associate in Arts degree in 2014, Tomeo relocated to the Newark campus to pursue her bachelor's degree in education. She gained additional classroom experience during her student-teaching placement at George Read Middle School in New Castle.
Tomeo was careful to structure an academic plan that would allow her to complete her degree in the traditional four years. AAP grads find that many majors can be completed in two years upon relocating to the Newark campus, but other majors can take longer to complete due to necessary course sequencing. Students are encouraged to work closely with their advisors in order to "finish in four." AAP Faculty Director David Satran credits Tomeo for persevering with her academic plan. "It's impressive that she completed her degree in four years, especially as she didn’t expect to be a teacher when she was admitted to UD," he said.
Upon graduating from UD in 2016, Tomeo was hired at Glasgow High School, her alma mater, teaching ninth- and 10th-grade English. She then joined the faculty at William Penn High School, teaching ninth- and 10th-grade English her first year. She is now entering her second year at William Penn, teaching 10th-grade and SAT Prep English.
Transitioning to Newark
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There were several aspects of the AAP that made it the best choice for her as an undergraduate, Tomeo said, not least being its affordability. "I absolutely loved the program, and it saved me a great deal of money," she said. Unlike many students who find themselves repaying loans for years — even decades, in some cases — after college, Tomeo recently finished paying for her undergraduate degree and is celebrating being debt-free a mere two years after graduation.
"Cindy is a success story from several vantages: the AAP, the College of Arts & Sciences, SEED, the State of Delaware, the public school system, college affordability, and UD more broadly," Satran said. "She also happens to be a commendable young person who will inspire the high school students she teaches."
Tomeo noted the academic and social benefits offered by the AAP. "I really enjoyed how the program allowed me to be in a small class setting," she said. "It also allowed me to make some nice friends prior to transferring to the main campus." Tomeo said she appreciated how the AAP allowed her to get her core classes out of the way first, permitting her to devote her full attention to her major once she moved to Newark.
Tomeo acknowledges the faculty who further strengthened her resolve to pursue a career in education. "I truly enjoyed sociology with Mr. Horowitz," she said. "He was very friendly, helpful, and always had a positive attitude." In addition to sociology, Tomeo particularly enjoyed her Intro to Women's Studies class with Dr. Vickie Fedele, as well as Dr. William Lewis's Young Adult Literature class at the Newark campus. "All of the staff were very supportive and helpful," she said.
In fact, Tomeo's professors and her positive experience with the AAP were instrumental in shaping her future career plans. "My end goal is to become a college professor," she said. "I would love to be a part of the Associate in Arts Program because I am a product of it. I would love to encourage others, to show them where this program can take them and how much they can benefit from it."