Campus Conexiones IS Inspiration

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“For me school was a safe haven and I was good at school.  It taught me about being a woman and being a Latina Woman.”

What does it mean to be a Hispanic Serving Institution?  That can be answered in so many ways.  Here at Mesa, one of the ways we represent “Hispanic Serving” is by creating support systems and networks for our Hispanic and underrepresented student population that will encourage them to push through their struggles and overcome their obstacles, transcending even their great hopes and dreams for themselves.  One of the ways we attempt to do this is through our Campus Conexiones Speaker Series every semester.

We have often “heard” from our students, and the majority of our speakers have also described, that they did not see many men or women of color or diverse ethnic backgrounds in positions of leadership, authority, or power.  They have further revealed what a difference it has made in their lives once they did see someone, someone who “looks” like them, in one of these positions.Camp Con 3-13-18 1

Our speaker series was designed in the spirit of this shared experience.  We have created an opportunity for students to connect with staff and faculty who “look” like them and may have shared some of the same struggles along the way.  This intimate experience breaks down the barriers that often separate students and professors or staff as being unable to relate to each other.  It opens the doors to build personal relationships.

Just when we thought our speakers could not come any more vulnerable than they already do, in walks our very

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Who gets you up in the morning?                          ~”My family. . . they have taught me to fight.  I wouldn’t be here if not for them.”

own, Yolanda Catano, HSI Title III Administrative Technician.  Yolanda held nothing back as she described her own journey into her identity and how her roles as a daughter, a sister, and a student impacted that journey.  She explained how her identity has evolved with her life experiences, redefining and reshaping how she viewed identity and what it means to her.  She also shared how important her family has been throughout her accomplishments, even when they did not fully agree with her plans or purpose.

Camp Con 3-13-18 3Everyone needs a little inspiration in their lives sometimes.  Yolanda shared the things and people that inspired her in life, and in doing so she inspires all of us who witness her strength and resilience in being so open and authentic in such a public forum.  She is a leader who does not forget where she came from and is not willing to leave anyone behind as she reaches back to help the next person step up that ladder of success she climbs.  Yolanda makes no qualms about the difficulties along the way she simply explains how everything is possible with people who believe in you.

For those of you who missed this powerful installment in our speaker series.  It is not too late.  We have one more speaker for this semesterCamp Con 3-13-18 7 coming up on April 4th, 2018.  Rather than attempting to read an inadequate description of what it means for us to be “Hispanic Serving” come, experience it and be inspired.



Winter/Saturday CRUISE 2018

Winter CRUISE 2018 -2Hooray for another successful CRUISE program.  San Diego Mesa College hosted its second annual Winter and Saturday CRUISE events in January 2018.  As some of you may recall from last year, we expanded our CRUISE program to include a Winter and Saturday CRUISE in order to support early graduates, nontraditional students, and our International Student population.

We hosted approximately 63 students for our Winter CRUISE, with Saturday CRUISE bringing in an additional 15 students.

Some highlights of the event include:

  • The English faculty piloted something newWinter CRUISE 2018 -1 and created a whole new agenda to make it more engaging for the students. Overall, the students really enjoyed both the Math and English workshops.
  • Since this is our second time doing Winter CRUISE (and Saturday CRUISE), it went really smoothly! Very few concerns came up.
  • We piloted having both the Classroom Tutors and Outreach Ambassadors (CT’s and OA’s) assist the Peer Navigator’s on the first day. To implement this we provided a training for the CTs/OAs prior to CRUISE, which seems to have been very helpful in showing them what to expect and how to collaborate during CRUISE.
  • We offered Jersey Mike’s sub sandwiches for the first time and it was a great hit. Much more popular among students than the previously used ‘Apple Spice’.
  • Winter CRUISE 2018 -4Our ‘Meet & Greet’ activity went well. However, since our population for this CRUISE is mainly international students, we made sure to be more conscious this time in having departments present who will be relevant and beneficial to them.

Additionally we piloted a registration workshop to assist CRUISErs to register for classes and get short term Education Plans.  Unfortunately, we received no response, and the lack of attendance has us reconsidering whether or not this is an actual need for our students.

Winter CRUISE 2018 -3Saturday CRUISE was held in the AVANZA Student Engagement Center which was super successful with everything being centralized. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the patio for our lunch break in light of the beautiful San Diego weather.

Highlights-February Campus Conexiones


What an amazing sprint off the starting line for our first Campus Conexiones spring 2018 speaker series.  We had a phenomenal turnout with 30 attendees ready to hear from Sara and Lauren.  We certainly wish to applaud their willingness and courage to share so openly about their journey growing up multicultural and bilingual.  I imagine everyone in attendance would agree that these two young women are AMAZING!  We would also like to throw a shout out to the increased number of staff and faculty who attended.  It was a wonderful addition to hear their perspective and their desire to be able to connect more fully with their own students to make a Camp Con Quote-Lauren 2-21-18difference.

Anyone who was unable to attend certainly missed out.  However, lucky for them, this was just the beginning of a semester full of marvelous events.  Be sure to save the date for out March installment, featuring our very own LatinX Alliance member and Title III STEM Conexiones, Administrative Technician, Yolanda Catano.  She will be regaling us with her journey on Tuesday, March 13th, 12-1 pm.  You definitely do not want to miss out on this.  If there is someone you would like to hear from and nominate for our future speaker events, please contact the LatinX Alliance.

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Back in the fall of 2015 we started the classroom tutoring program.  Since then, each semester we have had to locate adequate classroom space in order to conduct the classroom tutoring session.  Even on a campus as large as Mesa, space is truly limited.  We are thrilled to announce the new Classroom Tutoring Room, located on the fourth floor of the LRC (446); official name to be determined.  We know it can be quite a maze behind the MT2C Tutoring areas; therefore we are including a map below for you to see just how to get there.

CT Room Map

We hope that it will provide a consistent and structured environment for our students and our classroom tutors to support each other and excel.  Additionally, it will be really convenient for those students looking for some additional support in the MT2C.  We are really excited about the growth of the classroom tutoring program and are proud to announce that this semester we have 23 classroom tutors and are present in 15 course subjects, including:  BIO 107, & 160; MATH 46, 92, 96, 104, 116, & 119; CHEM 100, & 152; ACCT 116A; ANTH 102; ASTR 101; GEOL 100; PSYCH 101.

If you are interested in learning more about the program or adding a CT to your classroom, please contact our coordinators:  Mariam Kushkaki ( and Cynthia Short (

02-02-18CT Group Photo-1


Proyecto Éxito is excited to welcome two new members to the HSI Title V Team:

Allow us to introduce: Ms. Cynthia Short, our new WEL-Cynthia pic-3Classroom Tutoring Co-Coordinator.  She is a Student Services/Career Management Professional with 19+ years of success leading and facilitating teams to achieve results in the community college and private college sectors.  Cynthia served as the Tutorial Services Supervisor at United States International University which is now Alliant University before starting at San Diego City College in the Tutorial/Learning Center as the Faculty Supervisor.  She currently is an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Independent Learning Center at San Diego City College where she has been since 2003.  There she provides students and staff with assistance in the computer labs.  In addition, she also is a Facilitator at the University of California, San Diego, in the Career Connections program that provides workshops to current staff and faculty on career management topics including interviewing, goal setting, and resume writing.

Charlene-welcome picNext, we have Ms. Charlene Holkenbrink-Monk, our new Activity Director.  Formerly a Sociology Professor at the high school level, she is now an Adjunct Instructor of Sociology at San Diego Mesa College, San Diego City College, and Cuyamaca Community College.  Charlene has always been a passionate advocate for education and would like to extend the communication of Proyecto Éxito best practices to our local communities. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in education at SDSU in community-based and democratic education where her research is aimed at analyzing teacher education programs to be more critical of structural and institutional oppressed forms of intersectionality and critical pedagogy perspectives.  Charlene will work in conjunction with Professional Learning Coordinator Janue Johnson. They will be reaching out to faculty who teach key gateway courses where data shows a significant disproportionate impact among our students of color.


Although some of you may already be aware, others may not yet know about our Campus Conexiones events.  Born from the LatinX Alliance, Campus Conexiones highlights various LatinX staff and faculty each month in AVANZA in order to build connections between them and our students at Mesa.  Eager to close the Latino educational achievement gap, these events allow students and staff/faculty to get to know each other and create a network of support and encouragement.  See more about their objectives here:

We have a whole new line up for the spring 2018 semester.  So mark your calendars and save the dates.  We are kicking the semester off on February 21, 2018 from 11:30-12:30, and we are featuring two fabulous speakers.  Both of these amazing women work with STEM Conexiones, the Title III HSI Grant.

First we have Lauren Arriola-Sanchez,Campus Conexiones 02-21-2018 our Project Assistant: English/Spanish Translator, who has been translating flyers, DACA messages from our Chancellor and President, webpages, and more.  Lauren will be able to share how she has overcome numerous obstacles throughout her life to continue in her path to success.  Come and be inspired by her dedication and resilience.

Next, we have Sara Ramirez, our Project Assistant: Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Publicist, who credits her parents for her strength to persevere.  Self-identified as Latina, Sara will share about how she has been able to embrace both cultures (Mexican and American) and excel in her path to success.  Stop by and be encouraged by this first generation student committed to excellence.

Join us on Wednesday the 21st to get to know these amazing women better.  They are excited to connect with students and be a source of support and encouragement.

Save the dates for our future Campus Conexiones events as well:

Yolanda Catano, Tuesday, March 13th, 12-1 pm

Juan Bernal, Wednesday, April 4th, 2:30-3:30 pm

CT Climbs to the Top

Hy-hike to the topAll of us, working with Proyecto Éxito, love to see and experience the success of our students.  It is a true gift to observe as each student grows into their own, gaining self-confidence as they develop their skills and succeed in their endeavors.  One particular such experience really stood out for us in the fall semester, and we really wanted to highlight it here in our Blog.

Hy Truong started out as a Peer Navigator for our CRUISE program in the summer of 2016.  In the spring of 2017, he expanded his work with us to include becoming a classroom tutor for Math 116; transferring to Accounting 116A in the fall.  The classroom tutoring (CT) program actually places a tutor within the classroom, to be in the lecture with the class.  After the class,Hy-reaching the CT will then facilitate a tutoring session based on the classroom lecture and invite students for further practice and discussion to ensure their success in the course.  CT’s will also take the time to answer additional questions and give more examples to assist students in their comprehension of the material being covered in the classroom.

Since beginning with our programs, we have witnessed this quiet young man find his voice and excel in every task he has taken on.  We were honored in the beginning of the fall 2017 semester to have him come to our office and share about an assignment he was struggling to accomplish.  He admitted to us that he had trouble talking about himself, and that this assignment required him to do just that.

Surprised at his admission, we expressed to him the amazing things we had seen him accomplish over the semesters with us, and pointed out the differences he has made in many lives with his strength of Hy-mountaincharacter.  We reminded him of different events we had attended together and how we had witnessed him interacting with other students and peers.  After discussing the assignment more thoroughly with us, Hy left our office deep in thought.

It was several weeks later that Hy returned to our office with huge smile on his face to share with us his finished assignment.  Overjoyed with our excitement, we wanted to share it with everyone.  Not only did we see his character shining through his pamphlet, we saw it as a source of encouragement for other students.  We believe that his message, as well as his resilience, can be of inspiration to many other students and faculty, and we just wanted to thank him for being a part of our team.

See his complete pamphlet here:  Hy-Flyer