August 20, 2014//
Meet Celeste Colmenero. As a peer mentor in the First Year Experience program, she will help 50 new students make a successful transition to UTSA this year.
Some students need more help, and if they don't develop a sense of community, there is a higher chance they will leave before they graduate.”
– Celeste Colmenero
By teaching new freshmen about resources and how to connect with other students, they are much more likely to succeed in academic life and their future careers.
The political science major from El Paso credits her best friend, who she met at new student orientation, with encouraging her to become a mentor. When she applied and was accepted for the position three years ago, there were only 20 mentors in the pilot program. Now, the required and expanded First Year Experience has grown to 100 peer mentors and nearly 5,000 freshmen.
"At first, I didn't know how it would help me," she said. "I was shy when I first came to UTSA, but becoming a peer mentor made me more outgoing and confident. The experience has helped me with joining in activities and improving my public speaking skills."
The political science major says her link to the students gives them an added boost and keeps them on track.
"I had to push myself to get involved on campus," said Colmenero. "Some students need more help, and if they don't develop a sense of community, there is a higher chance they will leave before they graduate. Being there all year for the new students makes a difference."
Colmenero and her fellow mentors start out the year by meeting their assigned students and parents in informal gatherings. This summer, they met with groups of 100 parents and 500 students at a time. Parents often tell her that these meetings ease their minds because they see their kids aren't going in alone.
"It's very rewarding to see your students grow," she said. "When you first see them, they are very timid or don't have good study skills. The end result is awesome, and they really express their appreciation for the help."
Colmenero has a completely different mindset than when she first came to UTSA, and she credits the First Year Experience for that shift.
"I always wanted to become a lawyer, but I wasn't sure I could do it," she said. "Now, I know I can, and I'm going to apply for law school next spring. Becoming a peer mentor was one of the best decisions I've made, and it will greatly impact me as a lawyer."
Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.