Laker's Mentoring Road trip

By Gabriela Cortes, Cal State Los Angeles

My Mentor and I won a trip to Chicago through the Lakers Mentoring Road Trip contest. 

Going to Chicago with my mentor was the best experience I have ever had. It was my first time ever getting on a plane and traveling outside of Los Angeles.

The bond between my mentor and I became stronger.

I was able to meet other teens that have similar backgrounds and goals as me. One of which was that they are also first generation college students.

The Laker’s Foundation had planned a very fun weekend during our time in Chicago. We got a tour of Chicago and made a stop at President Obama's house! It was incredible to see his house and all the secret service surrounding the house. We also walked around the city at night and saw how alive Chicago was during night time. My favorite part of the trip was going to Kobe's Chicago farewell game against the Chicago bulls. Right before the Lakers started warming up we were able to high five all the players, including KOBE! My roommate and I were so surprised that we touched Kobe's hand because it was his last game and everyone was there to support him.

Throughout the trip not only did I learn how to have fun but also how to communicate with others. I met my roommate the morning of our flight to Chicago and now we talk on social media and keep each other updated.  I also got the chance to talk to everyone who made the trip possible. I was able to understand why they made it happen. It's important to have a mentor by your side to mentor you through hard times. I want to thank my mentor for always being by my side. Thanks to the trip we were able to be a part of this incredible opportunity and make our bond stronger.

A First Generation College Student’s First Year of College

By Stephanie Cuevas, Sophomore
University of California, Riverside

The transition from high school to college was a rather difficult one for me because no one in my family has ever gone to a four-year university and it was a drastic change in my life. I am very close to my family and moving out was not the easiest thing to do in the beginning.

When classes begun I had so much work and reading to do, and yet I was distracted by thinking about home and my friends. The highest point of my homesickness was spring quarter because my classes were difficult, I was more involved in school, and I got my first work-study job as well.

The stress hit me hard that I was ready to go home and just stop everything that I was doing. What kept me going was my mom, literally and metaphorically because I think about how difficult her job is and how she does it everyday to support me and my brothers that it would not be fair to quit when she has never quit on us. She is my motivation to keep going no matter how difficult and stressful it can get.

Moving from Los Angeles to Riverside was a major environment change because it is a lot smaller and has very drastic weather. Riverside is not that far, but living with people other than Latinos is different because I grew up in an all Latino neighborhood so I went through little bit of a culture shock. It was exciting moving and living on my own because I was able to make my own decisions, take care of myself and not worry as much about others. It’s not easy and some people prefer not to leave the place where they grew up, but I encourage and love to motivate others to leave their place of comfort and explore this world. There is so much to do and so many places to visit, but many of my peers do not realize there is more out there than just Boyle Heights itself. When I talk to kids in high school I always tell them that moving out and dorming was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have met people I would have never met at home, gone to visit new places in California, and have had unforgettable experiences. Going to a university does not just help you academically, but helps you grow personally and mentally as well.

I am done with my first year and am ready to start my second year at UC Riverside. I am excited because I will be living in my own apartment with close friends I met at school, I have a work-study tutoring job which I love doing, and am involved with my sorority, with a community service organization, and am a writer for an online magazine. What I do look forward to all the time is giving back to my community and doing volunteer work when I can. I love giving speeches to students because I want to let them know that there is more out there and that you don’t have to become a Hispanic stereotype which is to drop out and either join a gang or get pregnant as a teen. We all choose our paths but there are some paths that are more beneficial than others. Girls Today Women Tomorrow helped me mentally, financially, and most importantly personally. They were always there supporting my decisions and helping me since my junior year in high school. They were able to find scholarships, which meant I was able to get through my first year without loans. I also built friendships with girls and the staff and it made me feel comfortable being able to talk to them about anything freely and not worrying about feeling judged. I am thankful for all I have accomplished so far and will always stay determined to accomplish my goals and achieve all of my dreams."

My Summer Internship

By Aurora Varela, Senior
Mechanical Engineering
California State University, Northridge

This summer I was hired by the National Nuclear Security Administration as a summer intern. I was given the opportunity to work in Morgantown, West Virginia for two months at the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory under URS engineers. Having a paid internship was a wonderful blessing because I was able to save money for college and support my family financially. Hispanic College Fund covered the cost of my flight to West Virginia as well as the hotel I stayed at for those two months.

I am currently studying Mechanical Engineering at California State University Northridge, and during my internship I was excited to work alongside professionals in my field. In addition to growing my engineering skills, I also learned how to work with different kinds of people and to adapt to my surroundings since this was the first time I ever left California by myself.

Working with the engineers I was able to utilize a program called Inventor, which allows engineers to draw three-dimensional projects. I was also able to be part of an entire project process from start to finish. From having a meeting with all the engineers, to appointing roles, to designing an actual solution, and finally going to the site to check that our measurements were coherent with the engineering drawings. I worked with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and even civil engineers. I could not have asked for a better internship this summer.

I believe I didn’t just grow as an engineering student; I also grew as a person. Traveling to the other side of the country was such an eye opener; at first it was overwhelming because the Latino population in Morgantown, West Virginia is almost zero. I felt like I stood out, but I held my head high, very proud of representing La Mujer Latina and my community of Boyle Heights all the way on the East Coast. I have become more independent and even more eager to reach my goals of graduating college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and pursuing even higher education in Aerospace Engineering.