From Grades to Growth

Written by Kayla Montanez, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16 California State University, Sacramento Center for Science and Math SuccessKayla M.

In college when you’re assigned to do a presentation, most times your main goal is getting a good grade, preferably an A.
You work hard to make sure you meet the criteria your professor set for that “A” whether it’s covering specific parts of the topic assigned or making everything clear and concise. Ultimately though, your good grade is the goal.

I learned something new when I started my position as the Commit to Study Coordinator at Sacramento State. Here is the story: My goal (in short) over the next year is to design; build, and implement workshops, research needs of students, then hire a staff and train them on what I have gathered so that they can help historically underrepresented groups, minorities, and women in the STEM field grow skills that will help raise graduation rates. My first big assignment? Create a 2 hour workshop on growth mindset, fixed mindset, Blooms Taxonomy, persistence, and grit that well help students in STEM understand these concepts so they can implement them in their studies and lives.

At first I was so excited for this. My first big project at a job I was so passionate about and had been anticipating starting since I graduated from college. Then something hit me. I knew nothing about any of those concepts and had no clue on how to organize them in a way that would be effective for students.

After a lot of research, reading multiple books, watching TED talks, breaking down research articles to help me understand the effectiveness of these concepts and many nights of taking my work home with me I found myself trying so hard to digest this information and really understand it so that I could present it in a way that could be understood. I wanted the workshop to be delivered in a way that students and faculty could learn and grow and ultimately use the information to really enhance their lives and it was then I realized something. In a short transition of 2 months between graduating with my bachelor’s degree and becoming a VISTA I had made a leap from student to something much more.

DSCN1244I have always cared about people and always put my full effort into the work I did. I have always been passionate about higher education and social justice issues. I have always wanted bigger things for myself and everyone around me but what had changed here was my role. This presentation was not for an A. I was not a student anymore. My reach was becoming longer and my work could make more of an impact. I was so passionate and dedicated to researching and making this presentation as close to perfect as possible because I genuinely cared and wanted the people hearing it to learn from it. There was not a scored outline to follow, there was much more freedom and I wanted so bad to embrace this and make it the best still, not for recognition of a grade but to truly benefit others.

When the day finally came I was anxious, nervous, and everything in between. There were some technology issues but being flexible and rolling with it with a positive attitude really helped to overcome these small bumps. The workshop went great. Due to being a little of a perfectionist, there are some things I want to work on and make better but it went as smooth as I could imagine. After the workshop, I was approached by many students and faculty who told me they had learned so much. They said they could not wait to use what they learned and were pleased with the workshop.

While hearing these compliments could have been assumed as an “A grade” in my head, that was not important to me. What was important was that they would use the information I provided to them to help them in their own lives and hopefully teach it to their peers and loved ones so that they could use the knowledge as well.

I think the moral of the story is sometimes, when we least expect it, we grow and our priorities and mind set change based off our roles and passions. While I knew that I wanted to do this work and why I wanted to, I did not think I would make such a shift in not how much I cared but how motivated I was to use my position to make a bigger impact than I could imagine. I am so excited to keep embracing these challenges so that I can grow, help others grow, and keep making these impacts that will make a true and positive difference in the world that we live in.


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