It Takes a Mentor: Alumni Return to Share College Experiences

With the goal to support students to and through college, exploring the experiences of alumni who are navigating their journeys toward long-term success is an important link between CRSM and what lies ahead after graduation.

Recently, a handful of CRSM alumni came back to spend an afternoon with seniors, serving as mentors sharing their own experiences in college and the work world, and encouraging students to pursue their goals and dreams – even though the challenges ahead will be real.

Success, the alumni agreed, is (more than anything else) about overcoming the “culture shock” between high school and college.

“The most shocking part of college to me was confronting the fact that other students who aren’t Latina see life with a whole different lens than we may see it, “said alumna Mayra Tenorio, who graduated from Swarthmore College on the East Coast. “How you handle this will be very important. The biggest lesson I learned was to stand your ground and defend yourself and what you believe in. Cristo Rey gave me the strength to meet that challenge.”

Erik Estela said he found many of the same challenges and told the students: “Even when you face issues of racism, which is real, directly or indirectly, wherever you go don’t forget you have value as a human being.”

Time management, and “being patient with our parents who don’t fully understand that the world of college is for us,” are also important during the transition from high school to college, said alumna Viridiana “Vivian” Fajardo. “As the oldest of five and the first one in my family to ever attend college, this was very important for me to try to help my parents understand that education is something we need in order to be successful. Now my sisters are in college and they are very supportive.”

Learning to handle the freedom of being on your own at college also can be a big adjustment, agreed all of the alumni who served on the panel.

“I had a real tough time trying to keep my GPA up,” said Jahi Brown, who recently graduated from Marquette. “I ended up on probation, but my message to you is to reach out for help in college if you are struggling and never give up.”

Alumni who served on the panel included:

  • Vanessa Bahena, CRSM Class of 2013, who has attended the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University in St. Joseph’s, MN, and is currently taking courses at the College of Lake County;
  • Estela, CRSM Class of 2014, currently attending College of Lake County and working at Buehler, a Division of Illinois Tool Works;
  • Fajardo, CRSM Class of 2010, currently attending Robert Morris University and working full-time as Admissions and Administration Coordinator for CRSM;
  • Edwin Medina, CRSM Class of 2011, Robert Morris graduate in December 2016, currently working as an accountant in the CRSM business office;
  • Brown; CRSM Class of 2012, Marquette University graduate in December 2016 and currently on the career hunt;
  • Mayra Tenorio, CRSM Class of 2011, Swarthmore College Class of 2015, and Thomas J. Watson Fellow 2015, currently a case manager at the F. Gary Graf Center in Waukegan.