“Oakland Mills has been a very friendly environment… I feel welcomed,” says our new ESOL counselor, Ms. Victoria Rayo. Born and raised in Haiti, Ms. Rayo immigrated to Maryland during her high school years and graduated from Reservoir High School. Not only is she the new ESOL counselor for OM, but she currently holds the same role at Wilde Lake High School, so she knows the county very well.
As she was once a member of the ESOL program when she moved to America, Ms. Rayo is very familiar with the program, and understands the struggles some students may come across. She mentioned her involvement in saying, “I participated in the ESOL program and so I have a background and an understanding of the circumstances, the challenges, the struggles, that some of the students might experience with learning a new language, a new culture, a new environment. And so that was… what captivated my interest to come here and help support students in a similar situation.” As a result, she described her desire to get to know her students better, including their cultures, countries, traditions, foods, and any other background information. “Ultimately being able to get a connection with each student also kind of gives them a mentor, a connection with a staff member to be able to speak with and feel more positive about their journeys and where they’re going to be going and connecting with me at Oakland Mills,” Ms. Rayo said.
Education has always been a priority for Ms. Rayo, which was one of the driving factors for her decision to pursue a career within education. Growing up in Haiti, she was interested in education, psychology, and counseling, but did not know if she should pursue a career in a school setting. However, she said, “once I came to high school here, I connected very well with my school counselor, and that was a big connection that I had that helped me develop that want, that desire, to continue as a school counselor.” An impressive fact about Ms. Rayo is that she is fluent in four different languages: English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.
Away from school, Ms. Rayo has many hobbies that include reading, biking, and most importantly, traveling. “I like to travel. I like to explore different countries. I’ve been in many countries already and I hope to continue this year,” she said. She also enjoys many different ethnic foods, including: Latin, Hispanic, as well as French food. Ms. Rayo also enjoys dancing, which she expressed her admiration for Latin dances such as the salsa and bachata.
When asked what is one thing you would like people to know about you, Ms. Rayo responded that, “I definitely think it’s important for people to know where I come from and the different things I bring in.Not just with the languages I speak, but with the experiences that I’ve had moving to a new country and experiencing a new culture.” If you ever feel overwhelmed with anything regarding language or culture, Ms. Rayo will be there for you. Welcome, Ms. Rayo!