Peer Mentors Empowered During 28th Annual HACU Conference

December 4, 2014

  Two Building Connections for Success peer mentors attended the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) 28th Annual Conference in Denver from Oct. 3 through Oct. 6. HACU is an advocacy group that supports Hispanic universities internationally. People who are from places ranging from Puerto Rico to El Salvador attend this conference annually. Karla Montenegro and Haidi Quintanilla were selected by their Peer Mentorship Coordinator, Adriana Garcia, to participate in the important event. The selection process was based on GPA, class standing, and dedication to the Peer Mentorship Program. The Peer Mentorship Program would hope to be able to send all of their students to be a part of this rewarding event, but Montenegro and Quintanilla acted as informed representatives for their peers. Garcia and Dr. Juana Mora mentored the students prior to the conference to ensure they were properly organized and prepared. Garcia also requested the students apply for an internship at the HACU conference. “I feel that overall the general idea is that when you come out of this conference, you’re going to feel empowered. These students being able to see someone of Hispanic or Latino heritage succeed really empowered them,” Garcia said. Conference attendee, Quintanilla, was inspired by listening to presentations by successful Hispanic professionals. “These people that come from difficult backgrounds are proof that Hispanics can make it into higher education. They show how determination and tenacity can go a long way,” Quintanilla said. CEOs from significant companies attend this event, giving the students a positive image and reassuring their path as Hispanic students. Garcia met with the students both before and after the conference, and could see the apparent positive effects. Quintanilla said, “I walked away with a bigger love for my Hispanic culture as well as a desire to pass along this motivation to those around me.” Prior to the conference, Montenegro and Quintanilla were instructed to consider which lessons and values from the conference they could bring pack to their peers. They are in the process of preparing presentations about their experience to their freshmen mentees. HACU has many professional partnerships with organizations like NASA, which can be an effective connection to internships opportunities for students. Garcia reiterated the importance of the internship’s application requirement. “The potential internships are why the GPA requirement was important. I also wanted them to be juniors so they have a better idea about their career path. These two individuals demonstrated very strong responses to the application,” Garcia said. Montenegro said she was glad to learn more about some large organizations, and will even consider some in her future career plans. “At the HACU conference, the Army cleared up many misconceptions that I had about them before. I always thought you had to have citizenship, but I learned that you do not, and there are also civilian careers,” Montenegro said. Montenegro also wishes to share with her mentee students practical tips she learned at workshops, such as how to prepare for a job interview. Montenegro said, “I attended an interview workshop and I am preparing an activity in which I want them to practice what they will do at a real interview. Even a little thing like knowing about a company helps.” The conference motivated the women even further to keep working hard at their goals, to benefit themselves as well as the Hispanic community.