Shanell Cartagena Dopson: A Successful NH Alumna

By Mabel Soriano, 11th Grade

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them” (Chris Grosser). We’ve been told our entire lives that success is the goal. You should aspire to possess the best job, car, house; enjoy the most luxurious amenities in the world. However, have you ever considered that success can be measured differently? Seriously, what does it mean to be successful? 

Well, Shanell Cartagena Dopson defines success as the action of reaching her original goals. Shanell studied in Colegio Bilingüe New Horizons as what she describes “most of her life”, all the way from pre-kindergarten to senior year of high school. She was practically raised in our beloved school and she couldn’t be more proud of being a bulldog. 

Cartagena is quite an overachiever. During her high school years, she participated in volleyball, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, community service, model UN, the eco-club, and many other activities. She spent so much time inside the school that it basically became her second home, a feeling the majority of us can relate to. Due to her hard work, Mrs. Dopson received a merit-based or academic-based scholarship to study at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts. As a born and raised Dominican, “being able to study abroad is possibly one of the most praised achievements that makes not only your family but school community and country proud”. However, during the interview, Cartagena explains that initially, her father wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about her applying to universities outside of the Dominican Republic. Regardless of his opinion, Shanell was determined to study abroad, a decision that she made in her freshman year of high school due to the empowering environment given at CBNH. “Being exposed to teachers that were coming from the United States to New Horizons, definitely exposed me to the idea of at one point studying in the United States. It opened my eyes, no pun intended, but opened my horizons to the possibilities and opportunities out there.” She felt confident and well-prepared for college, therefore, she took a risk and it worked out to her advantage. 

Shanell completed a double-major in International Business and Economics with a minor in Latin American Studies, and a master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Management in record time. It took three years and a half to obtain her undergraduate degrees—because of her accumulated credits in AP courses—plus one more year for her masters both in Assumption University. Three degrees in under five years! Pretty impressive if you ask me. 

Don’t get any ideas, it wasn’t all easy. “Although New Horizons is really great at preparing us when it comes to the American-Dominican educational system, back then I still struggled when it came to everything that was part of the process. Right, so from the admissions application, to the documents that were required, to getting the student visa. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing but knew that I had to do it. In many ways, they were kinda like challenges that I had to overcome at that point in time.” Once at the university, other struggles appeared, some that were expected such as becoming more independent and dealing with a higher level of difficulty that is included in college life. Other battles had to be fought blindly, such as the loss of a family member. Sadly, Cartagena lost her brother during her undergraduate years and had to grieve for him far from the support of family and friends. “The school became my support system.” Professors became mentors, and classmates became friends who had her back and guided her through adversity. As we all know, it’s hard to lose someone we love but to recover from that loss is even more difficult, but not impossible and she is proof of this. 

Once she finished her studies, Shanell worked at Bentley University as an admissions counselor but then withdrew and went back to her alma mater. Nowadays, she is the director of Undergraduate Admissions at Assumption University. Her job consists of overseeing a team of admissions counselors which are the ones that assist high school students when applying to Assumption. This position also includes overseeing the strategy behind application management, recruitment, and international strategy. “I have a little bit on my plate but it’s definitely a lot of fun.” This passion for her job has a bit to do with traveling. As a director of undergraduate admissions, Cartagena usually travels to multiple schools in approximately fifteen countries per year in order to spread the word about Assumption. Even though traveling is a great part of her job, most of her interest is related to helping others pursue their dreams. “I love working with teenagers that know what they want and are able to work hard to get there.” 

At twenty-seven years old, Shanell Cartagena is happily married to her beloved husband, has three degrees which she employs through a job that she’s heavily passionate about while simultaneously enjoying the little things in life. When asked what she owes her success to, she responded, “My willpower. After all, I decided to push myself harder, and without that strength, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am.” She explains how she had to make sacrifices such as missing a trip to the D.R. to visit her family one summer in order to complete an internship in London. 

Besides having the right mindset, she stipulated the importance of a strong support system. In times of stress and despair, it’s necessary to be able to rely on someone for comfort and motivation. Lastly, Cartagena says, “New Horizons helped me reach all my goals in every way possible.” With exorbitant emotion, she describes how the school molded her and prepared her to become the successful person she is right now. She described our school as “future-oriented” and I personally couldn’t agree more. We’re privileged to be receiving top-tier education that allows us to expand our horizons—pun intended. 

As high school students, we are experiencing a lot of pressure to reach certain expectations that society, friends, family, and professors have set for us. We are expected to get into a great university and in a few years have high-paying jobs because we’ve been given the right tools to get there. I would like to remind you that you don’t need to be rich, be married, or have children in order to be successful. You define your own success. As Shanell said “you have to try. Make risks and put yourself in challenging situations as long as you feel satisfied with your goals. You can do whatever you set your mind to as long as it’s right for you.” Remember, real success is in living a life that makes you happy.

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