Written by Noe Mora, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-2015
Becoming a CSU STEM VISTA has been a roller coaster ride with the sharpest twists and turns you’ve ever seen, if you like rollercoasters like me, that’s a good thing! It has been a surreal experience to say the least. I’ve met professors, directors, coordinators, advisors, student leaders, the list goes on. I currently serve as the Tutoring Coordinator for the Maximizing Engineering Potential program at Cal Poly Pomona. A program that serves 400+ engineering students that are first-generation college students or from low-income families, in many cases our students fall into both. This year the program enrolled 120 freshmen, the most students in the program’s history, with over 50% of them being female, another first. I was a bit overwhelmed at when I first arrived. I felt like a caterpillar moving slowly, learning the ropes and waiting for the right time to become a butterfly. Sorry, I’m horrible at metaphors. October 3rd, 2014 was my day to come out of my cocoon, spread my wings and fly.
Through the art of networking and leveraging resources, I was able to unite over 200 students to have a good ‘ole fashion Freshmen Kick-Off event. There was a remote control airplane, 3D printer, water-balloon launcher, food, games and live music (my regional-Mexican band)! Even Billy the Bronco, Cal Poly Pomona’s official mascot, made a guest appearance. I invited everyone that I had made a meaningful connection with since I arrived at Cal Poly Pomona. The goal was to welcome our incoming freshmen; but I also took it as an opportunity to put my name on the map with students, staff, and faculty. I poured my heart into the event and was able to combine my music with my passion for education. At the end of the event I was tired, my feet hurt, I was hungry, but I held my head up high – I was proud. I couldn’t stop smiling, it was euphoric. Like a true CSU STEM VISTA, I was thinking of ways to improve the event for next year.
I couldn’t have done it without identifying the key players that made it possible. The Events Coordinator, Steve Quintero helped me acquire the stage and food for the event. Student leaders from various organizations dedicated their time to tabling and creating engaging activities for the freshmen students. The Career Center let us borrow canopies for shade. The Dean of Engineering helped tremendously by funding the event once he heard about the great things that were being planned. It was an event where everyone played a part directly, or indirectly. The community came together to eat, mingle, dance and, most importantly, to celebrate the arrival of the new incoming class. It was beautiful. The heat was our only nemesis, but even that couldn’t stop the funk!
As I am writing this I can’t help but think that becoming a VISTA has been one of the best decisions of my life. I am learning so much about myself, my strengths and areas for growth, and what I really want to do with my life. Lastly, I could not be writing about such a positive piece without mentioning the two key players in my current role. Lily Gossage, aka the best supervisor ever, and Nita Johnson, the best administrative coordinator ever, have welcomed me with open arms and have created an environment that makes me feel as if I have known them all of my life. They have helped me grow in the short time that I have been here and I expect to show my gratitude by continuing to show up and giving it my all! Honorable mention to Jaklen, my fellow VISTA who knows how to cheer me up and is always willing to lend a hand! Although I feel that I am still not performing at my full potential, I know that with their help I will stay on the right track.