Carmen Hernandez Garcia



Seventy participants attended the ACC Virtual Ascender Motivational Conference on Friday, February 5th. Three panelists were invited for the event: Dr. Victor Saenz, Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin; Ximena Baez who currently holds the role of District Manager at Starbucks; and Cloe Llanos, who began as a 2016 Ascender student and graduated from ACC in Fall 2018, and then transferred to Arizona State University where she is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

In the first part of the Motivational Conference, Megan Diaz, Outreach Specialist, asked panelists questions submitted by Ascender students. Her first was to Dr. Saenz.  “One of the strongest aspects of the Ascender Program is that we provide mentors to all our students. Tell us about a mentor in your life and how they motivated you.”

“I always think about mentoring as a reciprocal relationship; it’s not one person above you necessarily. In fact, mentors can be people who are farther along in their journey or they can be people who are not far along but perhaps have gained a new perspective on certain things that might guide you forward. Professionally, one important mentor for me is Sylvia Hurtado who is a professor at UCLA. Mentors are people who love and care for you and will hold this sort of accountability towards you, the same way Sylvia does. I hold that example she demonstrates and I pay it forward to everyone I mentor and work with,” answered Dr. Saenz.

Megan asked another question: “Cloe, you are such a busy bee! At one time, you were a full-time student, had a job (or 2 I should say), and were part of the Ascender Program. Tell us, how did you balance everything and how did you keep motivated?”

“It was a lot. I had to get really good at time management very quickly and it made me realize how important it was to have a plan and make sure that I was aware of what I needed ahead of time. Thankfully, both of my jobs have been very flexible so I was able to request time off as early as I could if needed. They were able to work around my schedule, and working at the library was more convenient because my classes were on that campus and I could go back and forth depending on where I needed to be. The local Starbucks was down the road from the campus as well so my commute was a lot shorter. Being motivated, I had a clear goal in mind. I needed to get my degree and I needed to keep working to support myself and my family, which was the biggest motivation that I had and made me work harder in order to reach that goal,” Cloe responded.

Megan asked panelist, Ximena: “What was a difficult experience that made you realize what you wanted to do in life? What is some advice to get through college?”

“I had lived abroad, came out to my family, and had some really difficult choices to make because I had to become financially independent and find a company where I felt that I could be myself and live authentically. Trying to do that and looking at the career choices I had done didn’t match up to ‘well, what do I want to do now? How do I make this experience work?’ I had started as a barista at Starbucks so I was trying to figure out how to manage that, and become my own person with a different network of people. Something that was always true to me was that I wanted to help inspire people and find their joy. Once I realized that this was MY growth mindset, it helped me decide where I wanted to be. I found a company for me, embraces opportunities that can help me grow my own family. Something I would have told my past self would have been, ‘you may not see instant gratification on that goal right away, but celebrate the small wins and victories.’ I had to get comfortable working with the people supporting me and get comfortable with asking for help,” Ximena answered.

Students had a chance to ask more questions, then an iPad Mini was raffled, with Erica Gonzalez as the winner.



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