2022 Goodwill Scholar of the Year: Cecilia Bonilla Villatoro

It would be easy to underestimate Cecilia, at first glance. She’s reserved, quiet, and a bit of an introvert. Behind that facade lies a strong desire to succeed. To embrace the power of now and chase her educational dreams. “I didn’t need to think for long,” Cecilia said. “After meeting the staff at NexStep, the decision to attend was easy.”

Cecilia’s path to NexStep was anything but. The formal process to immigrate to the United States from El Salvador began when Cecilia was only four years old. It took 15 more years for her and her family to make it to America. In a foreign land, unable to communicate with most of the population, Cecilia had only her family and faith to provide any sense of belonging.

She tried attending public school programs to learn English, but they were not a great fit for her learning style. Fortunately, she was handed a flyer for an ESL program at NexStep Alliance that would allow her to continue working full-time while attending classes.

She found an opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.

Cecilia came to NexStep for ESL classes but qualified for free tuition to WSU Tech through Kansas Pathway to Career legislation. This allowed her to earn a Kansas High School diploma and a technical certificate at the same time. She is described as the ideal student by the instruction team because of her persistence and determination. Cecilia has set her sights on a career in the IT field.