Name: Jeffrey Cabanez
Host Site: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo PEEPS
Alma Mater: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Major: Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies with concentrations in Industrial Engineering and Media Arts and Technology
Background: During my time at Cal Poly, I was heavily involved in Orientation Programs. I started out as a Week of Welcome (WOW) Group Leader. I, along with a co-leader, was in charge of supporting a group of about 15 students and their transition to Cal Poly. We had to plan out different fun events like kayaking, hiking, and laser tag, as well as facilitate discussion on topics such as personal choices and struggles, mental health, and alcohol awareness. My co and I mapped out every 15 minutes so that for the five days we had our students, we always had a place to be (remembering to feed them 3 meals a day became a slight struggle). Having a group inspired me to apply and subsequently be apart of the Orientation Team for the next two years. These became my defining years of college because I was able to assist in training the Orientation Leaders to have WOWies (a colloquial term we use lovingly for new students at Cal Poly); it gave me the chance to inspire and help others become better leaders. I also worked with Multimedia and Marketing, but these two years on Team helped me define what I wanted to do out of college. Originally, I wanted to enter the film industry and make it as a great movie editor or producer. Now, I want a career in helping others in education (but more on that in my Future Goals section).
Why I Serve: From a young age, I have always had some involvement in service. At the end of the day, I like to help others succeed. As my undergraduate career was winding down, I knew I did not want to jump straight into the work force because I had no idea where I would fit. Many of my friends within Orientation Programs had completed AmeriCorps programs within the San Luis Obispo Community, so I found out that there was an opening within the CSU STEM VISTA Program to work with students doing things that I have already done in Orientation, I decided to apply immediately! I thought it would be a great year for me to gain experience and work with students. I can safely say that it has been everything that I thought it would be and more.
Ah-ha Moment: My Ah-ha moment this year came from the interactions that I had with my six students. For my End of the Year Event for the PEEPS students, we did an activity in which you answer a prompt about yourself, something like what was your most memorable moment of the year, what are you most proud of, that sort of prompt. The cool part about this activity is using a ball of yarn to show how everyone is connected. While sitting in a circle, first person holds the ball of yarn and answers the prompt. When they finish, they hold onto the string and pass it to the next person. After you do this a couple of times, the yarn becomes a web. The take away message here is that everyone in the group is connected in their shared experiences, and if one person lets go, the web loses its support and crumbles. My students have become more than a cohort; they have become a family that supports one another through the ups and downs. From academics and long study sessions to creating podcasts about their life experiences, this academic learning community that I’ve had the honor to work with has developed into something that I could not have predicted at the beginning of my service year. This is just one way that a group of strangers in STEM can get immersed in their field and motivate one another to succeed in it.
Future Goals/Plans: Fortunately, I plan on spending another year in the CSU STEM VISTA Program as one of the two VISTA Leaders for the 2015-2016 cohort. Quick shout out to my co-leader Shannon Palka! My VISTA year helped me further narrow my focus and discover what I am passionate about. Seeing the passion the other VISTA members of my cohort have for social justice and STEM Equity have inspired me to continue working in the field of education in any capacity that I can. Whether that be pursuing a Teaching Credential or a Masters Degree in Counseling and Guidance, I have learned from my VISTA year that helping others reach their full potential is where my interests align. I just hope at the end of the day I am able to help someone find their purpose in life. I’ll sign off with my current favorite quote, which seems to be relevant at this transitional time in my life. “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will.”