Spotlight: High School Outreach Ambassador & Peer Lead, Karla Montenegro
December 4, 2014
It was in the summer of 2012, when Karla Montenegro was first introduced to the Building Connections for Success (BCFS) program. She says that, by chance, she began to speak with an elderly woman at the bus stop who told her about CSUN’s Career Center. There, she inquired about mentoring programs for students, and discovered BCFS.
Montenegro has a history with mentoring, which is why she wanted to continue with it in college. At her high school she was a college and career peer advisor. Montenegro thrives off of helping other students succeed.
She came into contact with the Mentorship Program Coordinator, Adriana Garcia, and began as a High School Outreach Ambassador. Montenegro took it upon herself to do extensive research about high school outreach. It is this type of dedication that later earned her a role as a peer mentor, and then a peer lead.
Originally from El Salvador, Montenegro migrated to California when she was thirteen years old. As an AB540 student, she is able to make a special connection with other students in her situation.
The business major shared that her transition from her home country was difficult at first, and she became discouraged. However, she found CSUN to be inspiring and wishes to inspire other students.
“Some of the high schools where I facilitated presentations on the value of higher education had very high Hispanic populations. I feel I was able to make an impact on immigrant high school students who were not sure if they would be able to attend college. I explained to them how to go about it, and they were really hooked once they learned I am an AB540 student myself,” Montenegro said.
Empowered by her experience as an ambassador, Montenegro used this as fuel to empower students when she became a peer mentor. During this time, she also picked up a minor in psychology.
Now in her junior year, Montenegro says she reports to the Peer Mentorship Coordinator, Adriana Garcia, at least six times per month. She looks forward to these meetings with Garcia.
“When I come in, Adriana even mentors me, and we also talk about the students I mentor. As a peer lead, I oversee three peer mentors, but I feel more like their friend.”
Montenegro says she aims to do for her mentees what Garcia does for her. Garcia calls on Montenegro to reflect upon each decision as mentor.
“Being a peer lead is very rewarding because the students feel very comfortable to contact me with questions,” she said.
But, the most rewarding part of her role in BCFS is gaining the trust of students and empowering them just as she has been empowered.
“Even with little questions, the students make me feel helpful. Also, empowering students to see that mentoring is a two way street and, I learn from them too.”
The care that Montenegro has for her students is transparent.
“For the students to see how far I have come knowing I am first generation student makes them feel even more comfortable. I absolutely love my students,” she said.