With more than 14 years of experience filled with traditions, memories, and students, Elizabeth Portugal goes above and beyond when it comes to being the site coordinator at Bassett High School. Elizabeth is dedicated to building trust with students and offering them a support system to succeed. She is described as humble, determined and selfless and has worked hard to make a change in so many lives. We are excited to give you the opportunity to learn more about Elizabeth!

What inspired you to work at Think Together and what continues to inspire your work here?

What inspires my work is the students and the ability to expand their horizons. I always try to teach my students new things by planning field trips to new and fun spots. My passion is to build daily consistency for youth. I have been in Bassett Unified School District my whole Think career and have built long-lasting relationships with my peers, parents, students and school staff. I want to be their biggest cheerleader, rooting for them to accomplish anything they put their mind to. I love my job and I love what I do!  

What is one of your favorite traditions you have with your students or staff?

I can’t pick one! One of my first and favorite traditions is celebrating student and staff birthdays each month. I love to celebrate my birthday, so I make sure others feel special on their day. Birthdays at Basset are usually celebrated with cake or cupcakes and a Happy Birthday sing-along.

Another favorite tradition is my holiday treat bags. All my staff get them, including the night custodians. They deserve recognition for the hard work they do. I fill the bags with treats and a handwritten thank you note to show my appreciation for all their help.

My last favorite tradition is my annual end-of-the-year awards. Each older youth leader gets an award and I give one special staff member the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson award. This award is given to the staff member who was my rock and helped me get through the year!

Is there a student story that has stuck with you?                                                                                       

I have over a decade of stories that have stuck with me. If I had to choose one, it would be the sibling duo I connected with when I was the site coordinator at Torch Middle School in Basset. Their time at Think Together was challenging. I worked closely with their aunt to keep them engaged in the program. They graduated middle school and started at Bassett High School around the same time I became their site coordinator.

During this time, I reminded them that they are always welcome in my program. I ended up working closely with the sister during Think Together’s after-school program and we were able to help her catch up on her credits. She graduated in 2016 and I was able to sit on the field cheering her on! Both siblings came up to me afterward and thanked me for never giving up on them and keeping them in the program. It was the first time I ever got a thank you from my students and it was the best feeling in the world!

Running a program for over a decade is not easy. What is a mantra, affirmation, or quote that has helped you over the years?

The first thing that comes to mind is two sayings that I meshed to create my own. I always try to remember to “leave my problems at the door because I am the best part of someone’s day.” I know everyone has a lot going on, but our job as educators is to not to let that affect the students and their learning. I try to remind myself and my staff that we are the students’ support, and our mission is to make them feel welcome and help them succeed.

As we approach winter break, what is one of your favorite memories of the past school semester?

Last year, my older youth leaders and student leaders hosted our very first holiday dinner. First time events can always be hit or miss but we had about 48 students attend. We all enjoyed tamales, rice, beans, dessert and drinks. My favorite part was all of us sitting around like a huge family listening to holiday music, sharing holiday traditions and creating new friendships. I can’t wait to host this event again this year!

 What advice would you give yourself when you started at Think Together 14 years ago?

I would tell myself that there will be challenging times, but the students will appreciate the support and knowledge you give them. I would also tell myself not to worry about this new opportunity because you will enjoy your work and make lasting connections. One of the best parts of my career is that my coworkers have turned into my family.

Outside of work, what do you do for fun?  

Outside of work, my main hobbies are spending time with family, friends and trying new foods. I combine all three every month with my four godchildren. They take turns picking out a new dinner spot to try that month.

I am a huge baseball and football fan as well, so I am always repping either the Dodgers or the San Francisco 49ers.

I also have a deep love for traveling and recently went to Cabo San Lucas and tried parasailing. If you have never tried it, you must try it at least once!