January 22, 2019

Scholar Voices: An original Earl Woods Scholar guides the next generation

We called ourselves “The First Five.” That summer of 2008, Avni, Omar, Pau, Stephanie and I (thought we) were the coolest kids at the TGR Learning Lab. In our pre-planned, color-coordinated outfits, we assisted teachers and students in building mouse trap cars and launching rockets.

Interspersed with all the fun, we learned from community and business leaders how to build our résumés, network with professionals and present with confidence. I’m not entirely sure, but I think that was the last time I ended a presentation with an awkward grin and a “…So yeah.”

In my current position as an Academic Counselor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), I enjoy mentoring students through college and toward their graduate school and career goals. I review résumés and statements of purpose, share interview tips and lecture confidently to a class of 300 first-years. Now what I do for work has become second nature – largely because of what I learned as an Earl Woods Scholar.

Ten years after that “First Five” summer, I returned to the Learning Lab to present at the annual Pre-College Retreat. Meeting the new batch of 25 scholars was surreal. I felt humbled to be part of the beginnings of a program that has grown so much and inspired so many.

Like several of the Earl Woods Scholars before them, most of the students I met at my Pre-College Retreat workshop are the first in their family to go to college. Getting to know them and their experiences transports me back to being a first-year myself: a low-income, underrepresented immigrant living away from home. The overwhelming feeling that my students talk about is all too familiar.

By choosing this profession, I can guide students as they navigate through university, mentor them as they prepare for graduate school and careers and support them as they eventually build a better future for themselves and their families. By choosing this profession, I can lift as I climb.



Redefining what it means to be a champion