Three years ago, Layla Quinones became pregnant at 16, and her life was turned upside down. Forced to move into a homeless shelter, she also had to make the difficult decision to drop out of Aviation High School, despite having good grades, because she could no longer take the shop classes that could lead to injuries.
“I knew I had to get a career,” Layla says. “No matter what happened that was what I had to do.”
Fast forward to 2010. Layla is a LaGuardia Community College Liberal Arts/Math and Science major with a perfect 4.0 G.P.A., a student-researcher at the Hospital for Special Surgery, an active member of College Discovery and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a soon-to-be-NYU collegian on full scholarship upon graduation from LaGuardia in September, and CUNY's Student of the Month for October.
She enrolled in LaGuardia’s CUNY Catch GED program in 2008 and in two months passed the exam with the highest score in New York State that year, enabling her to enter LaGuardia that September. Her son London joined her, spending his days at LaGuardia’s Early Childhood Learning Center.
With her personal life back on track, Layla planned to major in secondary education and go on to a senior CUNY college, but she soon rediscovered her passion for physics and mathematics and switched her major. She joined Bridges to the Future, a program for minority students who are interested in the sciences, and began doing bio-medical research at Hospital for Special Surgery. She also enrolled in College Discovery, the CUNY-sponsored academic support program, where she not only received tutoring services that led to straight A’s in her first semester, but also gained a foundation in teaching by tutoring her peers in English, math and physics.
When Layla transfers to NYU, she will be working toward a degree that will lead to a teaching career. But when she finally steps into the classroom, she plans on teaching her students more than physics. “When I came to LaGuardia I was exposed to a different world. And this is part of the reason I want to be a high school teacher. I want to influence these young kids, and grab their attention, not just about physics, but I want to help them identify the bigger picture.”