Alumni Spotlight Image
As the Lead College Counselor at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in Newark, Brenda Luz Quiñones ’16, helps high school students navigate applying for college admissions and financial assistance to make their dreams of earning a college degree or other post-secondary educational opportunity a reality.
As a first-generation college student, Quiñones has firsthand experience in understanding what many of her students are facing when it comes to learning the steps they need to take to apply to colleges and to seek scholarships and aid.
Quiñones recalls, “No one in my family could guide me and I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, my high school English teacher instructed us on writing our personal statements for college applications. At one point, someone scheduled me to attend a college visitation appointment with Bloomfield College that was held at my school and I was directed to bring the various application documents. I was soon accepted, and I followed up with attending a tour.”
Bloomfield’s smaller-sized campus was a welcome feature to Quiñones who came from the large Elizabeth school district that enrolls some 1,000 high school seniors at a time. Because of Bloomfield’s proximity to her home, the College also afforded her the option to commute or live on campus while being able to return home on weekends as needed.
“I loved the campus, and I was grateful that despite my average grades in high school, Bloomfield College offered me enough financial aid to be able to attend,” she said. “I was accepted at other schools that were further away from home, but Bloomfield quickly became a done deal for me.”
A recipient of the Bloomfield College Portrait of Excellence Award, Quiñones was highly involved on campus. She has been a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. since 2013, and held several student leadership positions such as serving as Student Government Secretary, Greek Council President and Greek Council Vice President. She volunteered to support a number of Center for Student Leadership and Engagement events, and interned in the Office of Institutional Advancement. She also extended her learning through a six-month, off-campus internship with WhyHunger in New York City that was identified for her by the Office of Career Services.
“Working with Nicole Quinn in Institutional Advancement was one of the best experiences I had. She saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. She was always encouraging me to pursue different leadership roles and taught me a great deal about professionalism in the workplace including how to communicate on email and how to interact face-to-face,” said Quiñones. “Career Services also helped me with my resume and taught me how to manage an interview. I had amazing support and I learned a great deal both inside and outside the classroom.”
In her work as a high school counselor, Quiñones also mentors her students to make sure they get involved at their campus or school once they start their next educational journey.
“I met so many phenomenal people at Bloomfield College that helped me formulate my path,” said Quiñones. One of the most impactful moments for me was when I realized I didn’t want to be a teacher in the classroom all day with students. I was lost and confused and one of my professors redirected me to switch my major to English, advising about an entire other professional world that would open up where I could still work in a school. That guidance shaped where I am today.”
The English Literature major followed a career in education. Her first job was as a Placement Officer at NJ Seeds in Newark, an educational access organization (now called Seeds Access) that identified financial aid for high achieving low-income and first-generation students of elementary through high school grades, and placed them in prestigious institutions. In 2019, she landed a position as College Counselor at Great Oaks managing a caseload of 45 students searching for alternative post-secondary education opportunities. The role includes teaching courses in life readiness, career and professional development, and interviewing.
She also earned her MPA degree in public administration and non-profit management in 2020 while working full time, and recently, she was promoted at Great Oaks to serve as the Lead College Counselor responsible for running the college office and the supervision of staff in addition to her other duties. Current volunteer experience includes serving as Area Coordinator for Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Peer Mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; and Project Director with Shuapavu Care located in Uganda, Africa, which constructed a community center for disabled children and adults.