Nyack College has a plethora of personalities. Nyackers come from all different backgrounds and bring their stories with them. Each one has a passion, a gift, and a desire to see God’s plan for their life be fulfilled. Nyack Unfiltered is a series of interviews I am conducting featuring students on the Manhattan campus who not only I, but others, believe will do (and currently are doing) great things for God.
The last interview in the series is with Joel Pompa. He is an impeccably-dressed Senior who loves writing and teaching. We met in the Writing Center my first semester at Nyack and we’ve been friends ever since. His presence at Nyack will be missed, but he will definitely go on to do amazing things!
So, you’re an English major. How’d you get into that?
Joel: Since I was a kid I knew I loved writing. So naturally, I just knew I had to go into something with writing. It started off with a dream of being a children’s book author/novelist, as a kid, because I loved reading novels and whatnot. Then I started growing a passion for teaching. One reason why I didn’t end up going into Education instead is because I wanted to maximize my opportunities in the fields that I want to work in. I’m thinking about broadcasting as well and maybe law. So I know that one of my passions right now, and what I’ve been doing for the last 6 years with kids is teaching – specifically teaching English.
When you’re an English teacher, are you going to be a grammar nazi of a teacher, or be all about literature, or what? What’s going to be your niche?
Joel: Well, a thing that has always resonated with me is a quote that says: every good writer is a good reader. So I feel that it is important to expose children to literature at a young age. [But] you have to do those little technical things to make sure that students are at the level of writing they should be at. But I think by middle school and high school, that’s already something that you’ve cultivated and worked on. Then, in class, you can work on literature, you can work on plays, you can work on different kinds of poetry. And what I love about writing is that I feel everyone is a writer. If you have a voice, you can write. Writing is just written expression, and what you pull out of yourself is what brings a message to people when you write. If you write a beautifully-worded sentence, [or] a grammatically-perfect, artistic essay, but it has no message, then it’s not worth it. So my hope in teaching English would be to inspire students to know that voice, to see the voices in the readings that they have. If I assign a reading, I like them to feel that world that the writer puts them in. So the idea is more of how they can become writers, how they can fall in love with literature, and not just a thing you have to do for high school. [It would be] more of an open discussion type of class.
Do you like creative writing?
Joel: I wouldn’t necessarily focus on that because I think the whole writing process in itself is creative, you know what I mean? When you go into understanding creative writing, it’s more about having open eyes to the world, looking around, and seeing those little details you never see. Noticing the little specks on the wall. Noticing the voices, the dialogue you hear on the train. You create these characters. Every writer does that. They listen and they create these characters through real people. So I guess, yes, I would like for the kids to be engaged in creative writing, but as a whole. Not just as a genre or as a subject, but that the whole class itself is [creative writing] – with literature as a helping tool.
If you could minor in anything what would it be?
Joel: I’d probably minor in Communications just because I like that field, and I’d probably say History. I’m a historian. As an English major you kind of learn that history’s important.
Why do you want to be a broadcaster?
Joel: Broadcasting stems from my self-confidence. I’ve always been very okay with public speaking. So me being able to engage an audience – I’ve always been comfortable with it. But my grandmother – so, I was born here, but I have a Cuban and Dominican heritage. My father’s Cuban and my mother’s Dominican – my grandmother from the Cuban side, in Cuba she wanted to be a broadcaster. She wanted to be a reporter, but there were a lot of restrictions 1. in her family and 2. politically, in the government. They didn’t allow her to continue with that dream. As I started growing older in high school, she kept bringing it up like, “Oh, you know, my life’s dream would be if you were to live my life’s dream out.” She kept saying it and perpetuating it, but I never really said like, “Ok, I’m going to do this for you.” I was just like, “Ok, ok.” But as time went on I was like, “Wow.” All of these attributes that I feel I have really align with the idea of broadcasting. You know, the idea that you want to impact other’s lives and influence them positively, and I just thought [that] one major way to do that was to broadcast myself.
Do you want to be in the public school system when you teach?
Joel: Of course. That’s where I was brought up, and I feel that there is a need for compassionate teachers in our system. I know my calling is to teach, so I want to go into the school system first as a paraprofessional which is, in a sense, almost like a preliminary teacher. It’s not so much a substitute teacher, but it’s on that level. It’s like being in a classroom, seeing what your class is like, and seeing what a teacher does.
So what has been your favorite part about Nyack? Not necessarily academically.
Joel: I would say that Nyack gives you the opportunity to be free. You don’t have to be considered a number. I think that’s one thing that’s different when I was in the CUNY system. There’s not just so many other students, but there’s this kind of distant interaction between the student body and the school. You’re not a student of the body, you’re an attendant of the school. [Nyack’s] very welcoming. You can live out your faith shamelessly.
When you graduate, do you have an idea of your trajectory?
Joel: Yes. Graduate, and my first goal is to come back to my old school as a para[professional], and then maybe as a teacher once I’m ready. The idea of giving back to my community in that way is big. I have kids that used to be in my program that see me every now and then, and all these parents loved when I was having my program there. Just the impact would be great for me because I’m doing something I love, something I have a passion for. It’s not easy because sometimes kids can be crazy – sometimes parents can be crazy. But what you get out of it is more. I feel that it is important to give more than what you expect to receive, but through [doing] that, you get more.
So when you’re 41, where do you see yourself?
Joel: Well, hopefully I see myself doing what God has called me to do. If that evolves into anything else, then amen. But I know right now it’s my passion for teaching and impacting others through the form of teaching. 20 years from now? Maybe I’ll be a dad, hopefully. I have the ideals of family. Maybe I’ll have my own school if I stay in the DOE [Department of Education] – be a principal or something. Maybe I’ll have written a few books by then. Maybe have my own channel. But those goals – I will just take them as they come. Just keep putting the work in, hustle a bit more, and then we’ll see from there.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Joel!