Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Paying it Forward: Transforming Lives Through Higher Education

Meet Sayoko Teshima, FTC Regional Student Account Officer

A wealth of divergence in culture, history, and perspectives lies within the Asian American community. Asia is home to 2,197 languages. Twenty million Asian Americans can trace their ancestral origins to over 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. In the total Asian population in the U.S., 94% includes 19 of the largest groups: Bangladeshis, Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodians, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Hmong, Indians, Indonesians, Koreans, Laotians, Nepalese, Malaysians, Mongolians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Thai and Vietnamese. Within each of these origin groups, there are unique histories, cultures, and languages. And, such is the case of FTC Regional Student Account Officer, Sayoko Teshima.

Sayoko was born in Cali, the largest populated city in southwest Colombia, from a Japanese dad and Colombian mom.

Growing up in such a culturally-rich city, Sayoko had the opportunity to travel through different regions of Colombia, and enjoy the unique characteristics, customs, gastronomy, and music of each one of Colombia’s six natural regions — the Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoco, Amazon, Andean and the Insular. In 1992, Sayoko moved to the United States to go to college.

“I loved my time during my college years, and I never wanted to leave. I always wanted to keep learning. So, after ten years working in the medical sector, I decided to join the higher education industry. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I feel right at home,” stated the account officer. At her current role, Sayoko helps students navigate their financial education responsibilities so that they can focus on school, graduation, and pursuing their dreams. “I like to tell our students that ‘Life is short to waste it on small things like setbacks, fears or others’ opinions. When you realize that you’re unique, special, and valuable, the possibilities are endless,” added Sayoko.


Meet Dr. Maria Aurora Makalintal, Professor 

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, meet Dr. Maria Aurora Makalintal, a member of the adjunct faculty at Florida Technical College, who shares her path to higher education as well as a delicious recipe from her hometown, Manila.

Dr. Maria Aurora recalls one of her earliest and fondest childhood memories while growing up in Manila, Philippines being a part of a large family. “It was so much fun – my siblings and I were all a year and three months apart in age. Our house was open to all our friends. It was like having a party every weekend because all our friends loved to hang out in our house – my mom entertained all our friends and there was always food for everybody. Every night we all had dinner together and every Sunday we will all go to mass as a family.”
The vivid memory still lingers after three decades of living in the United States and accomplishing a long and fulfilling professional career. In 1978, Dr. Maria Aurora moved to Los Angeles, California to work as a Diplomat for the Philippine Consulate.
Since then, she has found a passion for traveling – including spending weekends at the Pocono Mountains or the Jersey Shores to relax and enjoy the silent nature while trying different cuisines.
“I am also very passionate about self-development, living a stress-free life, doing volunteer work to help others, and living a good, healthy, happy, peaceful, and content life,” added Makalintal.

How and when did you start your career at FTC?
I applied and sent in my CV, Educator’s Philosophy, resume, transcripts, and other credentials. I was interviewed and offered my first course in 2021.

Why did you choose a career in higher education?
One of my favorite quotes is from Walt Disney, who said “All our dreams can come true if we dare to pursue them.”
I chose a career in higher education because I am an advocate of education. I believe in the creation of an enthusiastic and practical classroom environment that will help achieve and enable a higher order of thinking so students will have the confidence to go out into the real world and be successful in every endeavor they choose.

What do you like about your job?
I love sharing my knowledge and experience in academics with every student. I like providing a learning environment using practical approaches to education that center on purpose and accomplishments. I feel that the students learn best when they are given the ability to formulate new concepts of any subject matter, think outside the box, and put on their critical thinking hats, and that is what I like about my job.

Do you have kids? If so, how do you share your heritage traditions with them?
My daughter is married to a Filipino-American, living in San Antonio, Texas, and they have 3 beautiful children. Although my daughter was born and raised in the U.S., I taught her the Filipino lifestyle. She respects and holds on to the Filipino customs and traditions, and passes them on to her children, such as eating Filipino food and rice every day. My daughter, son-in-law, and my grandchildren are Filipinos in all their ways, except they do not speak the Tagalog language.

Share a Traditional Dish/Recipe:

Filipino chicken adobo:
1 cup vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup of mushroom sauce
1 whole garlic peeled
Pinch of peppercorn
1 bay leaf
2 lbs of chicken legs, thighs, or drumstick
Cooking oil
1 cup water

Cooking Directions:
In a large pan, heat oil and fry the chicken until browned. Combine all the ingredients in the pan – garlic, bay leaf, vinegar, soy sauce, mushroom sauce, water, and peppercorn and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer until the sauce thickens and the chicken is soft and tender. Serve with steamed rice.


Meet Adalyn Hazelman, FTC Career Services Coordinator

Driven by the “Bula Spirit”, which stands for happiness, good health, and the energy of life in her native Fiji, Adalyn Hazelman thrives on helping students reach their professional goals.  Reflecting on her decision to join the Florida Technical College Career Services Office 18 months ago, Hazelman says she was moved by the institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—a commitment she shares, too.

“Promoting an inclusive culture for all and giving every student the chance to achieve their full potential – both an integral part of FTC – resonated with me. As an immigrant, the opportunity of being a part of a team whose top priority is transforming the lives of others gave me an opportunity to pay it forward.”

Adalyn’s path from teacher to career services began in 2018 after working for four years at AMI Kids Orlando, a foundation dedicated to helping kids discover their potential, transform their lives and strengthen their communities.

“I was able to pursue a career thanks to my parents’ sacrifice and hard work. At 18, they encouraged me to accept a tennis scholarship and move from Fiji to the United States to build a better future for myself. The journey was challenging, especially while trying to find a job opportunity. That is where my strong desire to help students pursue their educational and professional goals came from. I’m passionate about empowering our students to develop their strengths and recognize the unique talent they bring to the workplace. And most importantly, facilitate their career quest.”

Last year, the higher education professional, became a U.S. citizen, a goal she had been working toward since 2016 when she married her husband, a New Yorker with Dominican Republic roots.

“This truly is the land of opportunity. It is my responsibility to uphold what it stands for. That is why we work hard to deliver first-rate equality, diversity, and inclusion services for our entire college community. When we level the playing field by providing equitable resources, the outcomes have an exponential impact on society.”

If we don’t get the year we can say “…began early after working…”