Using Experience and a Pioneering Spirit to Mentor Students
“We’re the pioneers basically.”
That is how Susana Medina—2009 Trinity grad and Humboldt Park native—describes her new position as an Illinois Student Assistance Corps member. Over the next two years, she, along with more than nearly 60 other mentors who recently completed ISAC training, will build partnerships with local schools, businesses, and nonprofits in order to deliver free career and college planning and preparation services to students from families with no prior college-going experience.
This role as a “pioneer” is not a new one for Medina who, after receiving the Greater Chicago Christian Leadership Scholarship, left the familiar surroundings of her Chicago community to enroll in a suburban Reformed college. Medina’s first-year transition into college life was challenging, but encouragement from her parents validated her sense of calling to Trinity.
“I knew God wanted me to be at Trinity.”
“I knew God wanted me to be at Trinity,” said the 22-year-old grad of the communication arts program with a confidence that one suspects hasn’t been bred merely out of recent experience. Indeed, Medina’s belief in “the magical way God is working” in her life and her pioneering spirit were ingrained in her even earlier.
“I learned a lot from my grandparents and their determination in coming to America from Puerto Rico,” said Medina. “When growing up, I made a promise to myself that I would acquire the same determination to make them proud for coming to this country.”
Medina credits her parents as well for molding her into the person she is. “My parents worked hard. I saw the chances that they took to better their lives—as my grandparents did—so I’ve taken every opportunity to gain experience throughout the years, because with every fiber of my being, I knew that something better would come as a result of it.”
Using her experience to help other students
In her sophomore year, Medina decided to use her experience to help other incoming students. As a mentor in the College’s First Year Forum (FYF) program, she and her faculty mentor planned social and academic activities with their assigned FYF group.
“Because I grew up really close to my family, as a freshman it was hard for me to be away from home,” she said.
Medina recognized this as the case with most new students, and while she supported their occasional trips back home, she also encouraged them to get involved with campus events. “Family is very important, and at times new students need to get away and rely on their families for emotional support. There's a balance, and first-year college students need to learn that balance.”
Three years of serving in this mentorship role has provided Medina with a knowledge and expertise that will transfer naturally into her ISAC position.
She heard about the ISAC job opportunity last semester through Trinity’s Communication Arts department and realized the classes in her major, such as public speaking and intercultural communication, would also be applicable in the position were she to be hired. She was, and after completing the ISAC training held from July through August on Trinity’s campus, Medina will be working in the Morton Community College district (Cicero, Illinois) to inform and guide high school students in their journey to become first-generation college students.
‘Trinity community’ organizer
Medina describes herself as a “Type A” personality, evident in her current plans: complete ISAC training, get married to her fiancé Aaron Lopez in September, begin work as a mentor, and—ironically—run the Fleet Feet Women’s 5k and 10k Race for Catch Your Breath in between. While a student at Trinity, her penchant for initiating and planning and doing was honored through various awards and acted out through her efforts to organize events that inspired the Trinity community and the local community.
In 2008, Medina received the Raise Your Voice Fellowship based on her proposed project, Faith Without Borders, an event that was held last September to encourage students and faculty to discuss their denominational and cultural differences in order to develop a more unified campus of believers.
“The Raise Your Voice grant made me realize the influence and impact that I had on Trinity’s campus,” said Medina. “I strive to live a life that embraces culture and faith, and I was able to emphasize to others how important these components are to life and Trinity.”
Just before graduating in May, Medina was awarded the Catherine Yonker Award for her work to unify Trinity’s campus through Faith Without Borders.
More about the Illinois Student Assistance Corps
Funded by the federal College Access Challenge Grant Program, the Corps tremendously bolsters the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s ability to provide high quality personal service to students in every single community in the state. Corps members will provide assistance with career exploration, college selection, test preparation, scholarship searches, application completion and the financial aid process in each of the 39 Illinois community college districts.
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