MEET ALUMNa Jasmin Preciado
Year(s) Attended Merit: 2004 – 2007
Program(s): Merit Music in Communities and Instrumental & Vocal Music Program
Hometown: Chicago — Hermosa Neighborhood
Education: Bachelors in Human Resources with a minor in Economics, DePaul University & Society for Human Resources – Certified Professional
Favorite Merit Memory: My favorite Merit memory is when I participated in my first Performathon. This happened shortly after the new building on Peoria opened, and it felt like the building was exploding with people and energy that day!
I was excited to perform on stage for the first time, and I also enjoyed spending the day at Merit. I loved the fact that I was exposed to a completely different environment, and that I had an opportunity to meet other diverse students from across the city. Watching the student performances showed me what developed discipline can accomplish and motivated me to pursue my passions.
Q & A:
1) Can you remember the very first day you started in Merit’s Band Program at Nixon Elementary? Do you remember how you felt, what your teacher was like, and/or thoughts you had about learning to play an instrument?
I started in Merit’s Nixon Band program during 3rd grade, and I remember on the first day our band instructor, Mr. Shawn Tracy, gave us a presentation by playing all the different band instruments. We learned what each instrument sounded like before choosing our own. I was captivated and impressed that one person knew how to play them all! Learning to play the flute was challenging at first. When I learned to blow into the head joint of the flute during the first class, I felt like I accomplished such a great feat! Mr. Tracy was at Nixon for several years and developed many close relationships with the students and families in the community. He took the time to speak with parents, showed us patience, and made band practice fun!
2) How did you go about deciding to participate in Merit’s onsite intermediate-level programming, currently known as the Instrumental & Vocal Music Program? Which teachers were instrumental in shaping you as a young musician?
The affordability of Merit’s programs made the experience of music possible for my family and many others who have walked through this building. Also, the support from my mother was crucial in helping me explore my interest in music. I quickly moved along in the beginner program, and I told Mr. Tracy I wanted to continue to learn. He convinced my mother to let me participate at the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, and I was fortunate enough to have transportation provided by Merit to get my flute group from the northwest side to the West Loop twice a week. I will never forget that first bus ride to Merit! I didn’t have the opportunity to explore outside of my neighborhood, so taking that first bus ride was an experience that opened up the whole City of Chicago to me and grew my ambition as I saw a world full of possibilities. This helped me later in life as a student because it reminded me that there are opportunities out there for me to seize if I am willing to put in the work.
3) Looking back, what specific life skills did Merit help you develop as a student? How have those skills helped you to be successful at college, work, and life in general?
Three life skills that Merit helped me to cultivate and grow include discipline, public-speaking, and embracing different viewpoints. Regarding discipline, Merit taught me time management. For the first time in my life, I had to learn to keep my schedule, manage my time and productivity. I had to tell myself “it’s time to practice,” and this habit, nurtured at Merit, carried over into my high school and college years. Regarding public speaking, my confidence has grown quite a bit, and I am now comfortable speaking in front of groups of people. Lastly, learning to appreciate different perspectives and ways of looking at the world has helped me broaden my relationships and build friendships with people from all types of backgrounds.
4) Tell us a little bit about your experience getting reconnected to Merit as a staff member and currently serving and Human Resources & Finance Coordinator. What’s it like interacting with current families and students at Merit?
It has been a wonderful and gratifying experience! I’m amazed to see some of the faculty that I worked with as a student still teaching at Merit; their dedication is incredible. Interacting with the families and students has felt so rewarding, and I am thankful that I can give back to a special place that helped me develop and grow into the person who I am today.