By Rubie Magallanes, Program Assistant, Community Foundation Sonoma County
When I was in high school, I was part of a college bound program for low income first generation students called Upward Bound (which fell under the umbrella of the federally funded TRIO program). The application process was not difficult; I only remember being nervous for the interview portion.
I was part of that program sophomore year to senior year, and every weekend during the academic year I would attend Saturday Academy. This was a day filled with academic preparation for the classes we were taking at our individual high schools. I attended Healdsburg High School and would ride a school bus to Sonoma State University every Saturday.
During the summers we had what was called Summer Academy, which was four days of academic work taking place in classrooms and one day of field trips which consisted of fun activities but also touring college campuses. Being part of this program was the first time I had been exposed to a college campus and what it took to apply to college.
Juan Hernandez (now the Executive Director of La Luz Center in Sonoma) was my mentor during my senior year; he was there to help the students whenever we had questions, whether they were college related or personal matters. Having mentors like Juan, and being part of a program that was so supportive is the reason I was able to get accepted and graduate from a four-year university. The staff were passionate and excited about the work they did with us, and had all the patience in the world for a large group of high school students.
Being part of Upward Bound and having mentors as caring as Juan played a huge role in my life, I don’t think I would be where I am if it wasn’t for those two things. I am forever grateful for all the support that I was given and have made it a personal goal of mine to be able to give back to young students going through the same challenges I went through.
CFSC asked Rubie and Juan to reflect on their 2009 experience as a mentor and mentee.
What motivated you to participate in a mentor program?
RM: My older sister was already involved in Upward Bound, and my mother thought it was a good idea for me to join as well. She wanted me to have the support and resources I would need to get into college. I didn’t know the first step about getting into college before this program, and words like college units and undergraduate student vs. graduate student, confused me. The program also seemed really interesting, filled with a diverse group of people, something that I wasn’t used to growing in Healdsburg.
JH: At the time I was working for the Sonoma State Talent Search program and a Masters student at Sonoma State. I was in charge of making sure the students at Healdsburg High School had the necessary information to apply to college.
What did you get out of the experience?
RM: I got a lot of help and support from the program, but I also made close friends. I had some great experiences as part of that program, both the staff and my fellow peers made the program so rewarding. There was something amazing in seeing a group full of first generation students trying to achieve their goals and be the first in their families to attend college. We were all working towards that dream together.
JH: I was inspired by Rubie’s desire to get into college. Her commitment to understand the college entrance motivated me and assured me that I wanted to continue on my career path of helping people.
What was it like seeing each other again?
RM: It was really interesting seeing Juan in a role of Executive Director; it seemed like he had come really far in a short period of time. It brought back memories of my days at Upward Bound, and what a great and funny mentor he was.
JH: I was surprised and excited. To see Rubie working at the Foundation confirmed the little bit I was able to do to help Rubie-paid off. I am proud of Rubie and her accomplishments. I look forward to working with Rubie now as a colleague in making our Sonoma County better.