Flagler English major and ‘96 alumna uses her writing skills to help millions of Hispanic Americans find educational resources
The 1996 Flagler alumna and English major hoped to write the great American novel after college. When she entered the job market, however, Nosal found herself involved in non-profit work. Now, about a decade into her career, she works as the marketing-communications manager of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans in Washington, D.C.
The White House Initiative’s goal is to help reduce the achievement gap between Hispanic American students and American students from other backgrounds. To accomplish that, Nosal crafts messages that help Hispanic American parents better understand No Child Left Behind rights and find resources their children need to succeed in school.
“I think being a novelist, for me, would have been a personal thing,” Nosal said. “But you don’t know if anyone else will benefit from it. [With this initiative,] you change one life, you can change generations … I don’t think I ever dreamed I would be in this situation, helping people with low incomes who didn’t have the opportunities that I had.”
Nosal’s parents are both Puerto Rican, and she was born in Homestead, Fla. She said her cultural background and Spanish language skills have helped her work with the White House Initiative. She also personally understands some of the challenges facing Hispanic American students and their parents: When Nosal was in kindergarten, administrators at her school removed her from regular class and sent her to an English as a Second Language class – without permission from her mother or teacher.
“My first language was English!” she said, adding that her mother made sure Nosal got back into the correct class. “My mother was a very informed and involved parent; she knew she had rights and choices, and she exercised her right to make decisions that would positively impact my academic career. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the 6 million Hispanic households in the U.S. with school-age children.”
In addition to writing and editing for the White House Initiative, Nosal develops strategies for fostering communication between learning-related groups throughout the country. And her work has paid off: The initiative currently has a national network of almost 500 partners, from nonprofit organizations to businesses. Those partners share their outreach activities, resources, best practices, news and contacts with the White House Initiative and each other.
“Regarding the achievement gap between Hispanic students and their non-Hispanic peers, I can tell you that slowly but surely that gap is decreasing,” Nosal said. “There have been steady gains in the math and reading levels of fourth and eighth graders since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001. In fact, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress report, African-American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs in a number of categories.”
Nosal said she’s enjoyed her non-profit and government career – and all the opportunities to help and meet people she never would have known in the literary field.
“When I graduated from Flagler, everyone said, ‘Oh, English major. Are you going to become a teacher?’ ” Nosal said. “I did teach for a year at the junior-high level; it just wasn’t for me. After some time in the non-profit sector, I finally realized that being a civil servant and working for the federal government was exactly where I needed to be.
“What I love about it is you never know whose life you’re touching just by sending a link or an e-mail. One lady called from Honduras to thank us … it’s amazing, the contacts you make from all over the world.”
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