Peer Mentors Attend Conference About Empowering Hispanics in Education

November 6, 2013

Two Building Connections for Success’ peer mentors joined nine California State University Northridge students for the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) 27th Annual Conference in Chicago from Oct. 26 through Oct. 28.

Several weeks prior to the conference, 21- year-old Blanca Mejia, a Family Consumer Sciences major, and 22-year-old Zaneta Madrona, a Child and Adolescent Development major, met with the Title V Mentorship Coordinator Adriana Garcia to discuss expectations and conference timelines.

“Two mentors will represent the HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) Title V grant,” said Garcia.  “I see this opportunity as a chain reaction.  I expect Mejia and Madrona to comeback and teach
the pedagogy or research topic to a fellow peer mentor and the mentees.  It will create a bigger impact when a student can disperse the information to one another.”

Enthusiastic and prepared to learn, Madrona and Mejia left for Chicago on Friday Oct. 25 with Garcia.

“Attending the conference will benefit others within the Building Connections for Success community by opening potential professional contacts with other people in the field or students attending Hispanic Serving Institutions,” said Mejia. “It is an excellent way of networking with federal government and corporate professionals.  It helps the community in BCFS by exposing students, mentors, faculty and staff to building a professional relationship with the small community at California State University, Northridge.”

Presentations, panels, Q&A, workshops and networking sessions filled their weekend’s festivities.

“To be honest, I look forward to learning anything I can absorb to give back period,” said Madrona.  “Everything is a learning experience.”

The “Championing Hispanic Higher Education Success: Securing the American Dream” annual conference is designed for people working within Hispanic education.  At the conference, the discussion focused on best practices to positively affect the educational opportunities of Hispanics.

“I think the HACU conference is an important tool for anyone because it is a great opportunity for students and staff to develop professionally,” said Madrona.  “It specifically caters to me as a peer leader because I can take what I have learned and spread it to all peer mentors who in turn spread to the peer mentees. This is what peer mentoring is all about–reaching out to the peer and guiding him or her through their college career.”

Upon returning from Chicago, Madrona and Mejia recollected about the conference’s most memorable and influential moments.

“Being able to attend the HACU conference  has benefitted my position as a peer lead by meeting people from different career fields and understanding the importance of coming back to bring information to students at CSUN,” said Mejia.  “The workshops and professionals who were at the conference emphasized the need of collaborating to be successful and coming back to inform your peers and the generation behind you.”

Madrona enjoyed meeting people who wanted “to better themselves professionally and take an opportunity to travel and network.”

A variety of platforms and discussions on Hispanic education at the HACU conference taught Mejia and Madrona beneficial subjecs for students to learn early on in college as it will better prepare them for a career.

Madrona’s favorite workshop discussed the importance of financial literacy.  She recognized the benefits in understanding the relevance of money management for working students in college.

“I think this is worth sharing with my peers because many of us students often have jobs as well as working on our education,” said Madrona.  “It is hard for me to manage and budget my money and I have no idea where all of my hard earned money goes! After taking this workshop, it made me realize that I have got to seriously start saving now especially since I have to pay back my loans somehow, someway.”

Mejia enjoyed the discussion on establishing a personal brand.

“Creating your own branding means showcasing what makes you unique and presenting it through your work,” said Mejia.”

One aspect remains certain and that is the relationships Madrona and Mejia created with fellow conference attendees will transcend the end of the HACU conference.

“I connected with a student who is interested in my field of study who lives in New York City,” said Mejia.  “Also, I networked with several other corporate directors, who I will continue to remain in contact.”

As peer mentors, Madrona and Mejia continue to learn new skills to be passed along to BCFS mentees to benefit their education.