Tampa Bay area teacher gives back after getting help with college

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (WFLA) — As we near the end of another school year we need to thank the selfless work of our kid’s teachers. One Tampa Bay area teacher is giving back to her community, and she says she’s able to do this after getting help in paying for college.

If there is a passion in Ms. Jessica Iradale’s life, it’s that of teaching.

“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Iredale said. “(I) learn something that they’ve been struggling with and then you see that light bulb. It’s like you can almost visualize a light bulb above their head and they’re like, ‘Ah! I get it!’ That’s the best feeling.”

For this 14-year veteran in education, she can’t help but look back at what helped her get to this spot.

“I was working full-time and going to school full-time, and trying to do everything on my own,” Iredale said.

Starting at Hillsborough Community College then moving to USF, it was in 2001 that she caught the eye of the City of Tampa’s Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council. She was awarded the first Latinos Unidos scholarship meant to aid Latino students, often the first in their families to go to college.

“To have been recognized that you’re doing something great, and this is something that we just wanted to give you extra to help you, it was a huge honor and I know it made my mom very proud as well,” Iredale said.

Known under her maiden name Jessica Aviles, she was a pioneer for her family. Parents from San Salvador and Puerto Rico, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.

“This is so cool. I might have been the first, but I’m not the last. It just keeps going,” she said.

So while every year more scholarships are handed out now at HCC, USF and UT, Ms. Iradale pays it forward by teaching and encouraging the future right here in Tampa Bay.

“I always let them have an end in mind. I tell them, I want you guys to be college bound. I want you guys to think about your future,” says Iredale.

The scholarships are made possible every year thanks to the proceeds of the Latinos Unidos luncheon, happening at the Hilton Downtown Tampa. This year the keynote speaker is Tampa native Richard Gonzmart, with Tony Morejon winning the Matilda Martinez Garcia Leadership Award.

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