Published September 3, 2019
When she was a sophomore at UB, Joanna Saintil was fired from the College Success Center in Buffalo Public Schools' Bennett High School by Nathan Daun-Barnett, associate professor from the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, who hired the work study students for the center through a GEAR UP grant. Saintil, currently a master’s student from the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology (CSEP), often challenged her supervisors to do more to help Bennett students. As her temper became shorter, she began to hurt her relationships in Bennett.
Saintil’s short temper and frustrations made everyone around her upset, which ultimately lead to her being fired by Daun-Barnett. After firing her, Daun-Barnett told Saintil he wanted to be her mentor to get her back on track for her degree, which would make Saintil the first one in her family to hold a higher education diploma. “I am not entirely sure how or why Saintil was open to my offer, but she took me up on it,” said Daun-Barnett. “We have worked together ever since.”
Daun-Barnett was impressed with Saintil’s ability to relate to the Bennett students and identify with what they have gone through. “Saintil is different and I am a different educator because of our relationship,” said Daun-Barnett. “I understood her anger over the Bennett students because that frustration clearly derived from her empathy for those high school students she signed on to help.”
After being fired, Saintil barely held a 2.0 GPA, lost scholarships, endured an unsteady and sometimes troubling family life, stretching herself too thin working multiple jobs and working through what she called “learned helplessness.” Now, she is a CSEP student serving as a graduate assistant in the UB Office of Student Success, Tutoring and Academic Support Services. She is also serving as a lead intern on a team of 36 at Bennett High School (the same place she was dismissed from as a sophomore).
“At first, when I got fired, I was like ‘What is going on?’ And then when Dr. Nate reached out to me and said, ‘I want to mentor you,’ it was like ‘What is going on with this man? Why would he fire me and then ask to mentor me?,’” said Saintil. Daun-Barnett saw potential in her that he rarely sees as he noted that Saintil is very charismatic and people are just naturally drawn to her.
Saintil wants to be a high school counselor and eventually make her way to becoming a principal. She often reflects on a high school teacher who once told her she would work at McDonald’s for the rest of her life, and her high school counselor who told her not to apply to UB because they don’t accept people like her.
“We often allow outside influences such as money, pride or familial pressures to shape our future, but little do we know that we are the ones hindering ourselves from our own success,” said Saintil. “I want to have an effect on students from the same background as me and students that people believe aren’t worth coming to UB.”