by Betty Monsanto

I remember sitting in my freshmen dorm room watching my parents leave. An overwhelming feeling of anxiety came over me as I analyzed my new surroundings. I had worked incredibly hard in both my preparation for the SATs and research on college admissions. Alone, I had tackled the unfamiliar topics of financial aid, student loans, and scholarships. Finally, it was move-in day at Stony Brook University and I did not feel accomplished. Instead, I felt like the obstacles had just begun and there was more hardship ahead of me.

There were no guidelines or examples to follow. My parents were immigrants of the Dominican Republic and although my father had gone to college briefly, he had never finished and was unfamiliar with how the higher education system worked in the United States. This unfamiliarity was a frightening feeling for both my parents and myself. However, I knew the importance of this new chapter in my life and with help from my networks I was able to overcome fear and learn how to succeed in college.

Understanding how to utilize these networks and resources was essential to my college career. I learned that I was not alone in navigating the struggles of being a first-generation-to-college undergraduate student. I leaned on my friends, peers, and counselors to get a better understanding of what it took to succeed. Joining organizations on campus like Student Media and Undergraduate Student Government positively contributed to my college experience. When I was approached by Sydney Cervantes, the Stony Brook Site Director,  to apply to become a Success Coach at Stony Brook, I had never heard of Let’s Get Ready. However, after learning about the mission of Let’s Get Ready, I immediately became enthusiastic about discussing my experiences with the students in the College Success program. As a College Success Coach, I was able to share my personal struggles and triumphs to give my mentee direction.

Initially, I joined Let’s Get Ready wanting to give back and help other students, however I did not expect to gain an experience that would better my college life as well. While I learned a lot from my mentees, I also benefited from gaining a network that would serve as my support. The College Success Program Manager and Site Directors helped me reinforce my own goals as well as serve as my support when I needed guidance aside from my role as mentor. “Students helping students” is a true description of the goal of the Success program. There is a great authenticity in peer mentorship because of the genuine intent to help each other succeed.

Let’s Get Ready created new opportunities for myself and the other mentors with career resume workshops and Executive Tours that encouraged professional growth. In fact, during my attendance of an Executive Tour I was able to meet the Let’s Get Ready’s National Director of External Affairs that offered me a position as Let’s Get Ready’s Social Media Intern. My position as social media intern has allowed me to apply my knowledge of digital social platforms to expand the LGR initiatives and spread awareness of the issues underrepresented students are facing. Overall my experience with LGR has greatly contributed to my college success.

Betty Monsanto is a graduating Senior at Stony Brook University, majoring in Economics. She participates in the Diversity Professional Leadership Network on campus while coaching at the Stony Brook Success site.