Name: Kayla Montanez
Alma Mater: University of Massachusetts, Lowell
Major: Psychology and Gender Studies
Background: As a freshman I attended a small private college, Lesley University. While I was there, I was a Psychology and English major, was the president of the community service club, worked for career services, interned at the Somerville District Court House, participated in a week long Alternative Spring Break Trip and was hired as a Resident Advisor and Orientation Leader. Every Tuesday night I participated in something called Lesley Delivers where a group of students and I would bag sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and fruits into brown bags and pass them out to homeless individuals in Harvard Square. Although I loved Lesley, I had to leave because even with a $32,000 scholarship, I struggled with paying the left over balance. I transferred home to a state school, University of Massachusetts Lowell. As a sophomore who just transferred and was living at home again as well trying to get acclimated to a new school, learn the ropes, and find my way, I struggled for my first year at UMass Lowell. Towards the end of my sophomore year I was determined to find a family on campus at UMass like I had at Lesley.
After getting a job as an Orientation Leader, the team I was on empowered me to continue to get involved on campus. I became a Campus Tour Guide Captain, interned in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, became a Resident Advisor, became a Student Alumni Ambassador and completed some Leadership Initiative trainings through the Office of Student Activities. Over the 3 years I was at UMass Lowell I won Student Employee of the Year, was awarded Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, was honored
with University of Massachusetts Lowell M.A.L.E.S. Women’s Appreciation Award, was chosen to be an NASPA NUFP, and was selected and funded to attend the Social Justice Training Institute at Colorado State University. As a first generation high school graduate and first generation college student, I had no idea what I was doing and how to succeed personally, academically, and in extracurricular activities. Yet the organizations I was involved in provided me with guidance, support, and empowerment to do my best and, even if I failed, to get back up and use it as motivation to keep striving. These experiences collectively led me to realize that my calling was in higher education. I want to be the voice for students, so they can reach their highest potential because not only do they deserve it, they need to believe that they do.
Ah-ha moment: Through service I have learned so much. Professionally I have learned that I need to be very structured, intentional, and organized to get my best work done. Whether that means I have a calendar on my phone, an agenda, and a calendar on my wall that is color coded – it is ok because this helps me to stay on track and focused. Personally I realized that in order for me to be the best version of myself, I need to be a little selfish and that’s ok. What I mean more specifically is that I need time to reflect, detach, and do things that make me happy in order to do my best. Cooking healthy meals at the beginning of the week, going to the gym daily, and turning my phone off to read or watch one of my favorite TV shows are some examples of what keep me healthy and happy.
Advice: IT WILL ALL PAY OFF, you just have to stay focused and remember why you started. Trying to pay rent, bills, for food, and just to live in general on $4 an hour is not easy and can get draining at times and make you think “why in the world did I decide to do this rather than getting a good paying job post-graduation?” But the impact you are making is worth so much more than a salary job or anything at that matter. This work is necessary and you committing to a year of volunteering full time speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. You’re selfless. Not many people would chose to do the work we do, but the work we do alleviates poverty, empowers students, and is changing the world one day at a time. This work is humbling, inspiring, and you learn so much more about yourself and the world than you probably thought was even possible. Make serious changes, put 110% into every day, and at the end of your service year I promise you that you will have no regrets.
Future Goals/Plans: In the fall I will be attending Colorado State University for a degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education. I will also be holding an assistantship in Apartment Life as an Assistant Residence Manager for the 2 years that I am completing my degree. After graduating, my dream is to be a professional in student affairs and also be professor so that I can be on the academic side as well. I hope to get a taste of every part of Higher Education so that I can over time move up the ranks and be a Dean or President of a University so that I can make impacts on a larger scale. I want to make an impact on college campuses because not every student receives the opportunity to get a higher education and even if they do, sometimes they are not provided the same resources as their peers and this puts them at a disadvantage to succeed. I know that I most certainly want to get my PhD but I am not sure exactly what in yet. I know that decision will come with time when I can channel my biggest passion in the Higher Education world (because right now I love everything) :).