Student Spotlight: How College Bound Academy shaped my path to College, empowered me to pay it forward
Coming from a first-generation Mexican-American household, college was a pathway to upward social mobility and the American Dream. Even though it was highly encouraged, I never really knew how the college process worked. The only thing I knew was that I had to study hard, get involved and never give up – three core principles I truly believe have allowed me to be where I am today.
In high school, I was very involved around campus and loved to interact with people. I was a part of the band program (President), Associated Student Body (Vice President), National Honors Society and Puente. My involvement really boosted my confidence and with that I reached out for local resources. This led me to TGR Foundation’s College Bound Academy, a program that truly explained the college process, the differences between colleges and provided me with a wealth of options for higher education. Not only did I gain so much knowledge, but I met some brilliant, driven and inspiring people, including the program’s lead, Denisse Jover. I am so lucky to still keep in touch with friends and staff that I met through College Bound Academy and see all the amazing things that they are doing.
After high school, I continued my education at my local community college, Fullerton College, and chased my dreams by transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. I am happy to say that I will be graduating from UC Berkeley in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Education. My goal is to continue with my education and receive my master’s degree to become a community college professor, administrator and/or guidance counselor. I love helping others reach their fullest potential, especially with such a powerful tool like education.
I would be lying if I said my path to college was easy. It was challenging. All the components of pursuing higher education including the college application process, the forms needed to succeed, managing several responsibilities like working three jobs, filling out FAFSA forms, looking for scholarships and studying to maintain a high GPA were overwhelming and sometimes still feels like the path isn’t clear.
As I connected with my friends, Gabriella Henry and Gustavo Aguilar from Katella High School, who also attend UC Berkeley, we noticed that there was a common trend in our community – a lack of resources and college assistance – and we felt that it needed to be addressed.
We knew that we wanted to give back to our community and help students navigate the college process by creating “Ur College Mentor”. The UC Mentor program was created in August of 2020 and is led by Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) alumni including Gabriella Henry, Vanessa Natera, Gustavo Aguilar, Tracy Nguyen, Monse Ibarra and myself. The program aims to provide all AUHSD seniors, especially underrepresented students, with mentorship opportunities, scholarship and internship resources, volunteer opportunities and college application assistance.
Currently, we are serving more than 80 students through one-on-one mentorship at Katella and Anaheim High School, with hopes to expand to the rest of the district in the following academic year. Aside from one-on-one mentorship, our program holds “College Tuesdays,” weekly workshops open to all students in the district.
“College Tuesdays” cover all aspects of the college prep journey, including:
- Financial aid
- College alumni panels
- Personal insight question assistance (PIQ’s)
- Navigating the UC, CSU, community college and Common applications
- Monthly newsletters with scholarship, internship and wellness tips
If there is one important thing I learned from TGR Foundation’s College Bound Academy it is that your options are truly limitless when you decide to further your education. If I could give my younger self advice it would be to never feel discouraged because your college plan didn’t turn out the way you intended.
There is nothing wrong with attending a school that suits your liking, financial needs and life circumstances. Education and knowledge are plentiful at any institution you decide to attend whether that is community college or private school. As my people say, Si Se Puede; Yes you can!
Redefining what is means to be a champion.