Written by Lizette Bonilla

Pictures courtesy of Jake Veritas

Explore SDSU is an annual San Diego State University event which brings various campus offices, communities, and organizations together to provide information booths, workshops, tours, and open houses for current and prospective students. The event encourages students to become more involved on campus, be more informed about organizations and programs, and, as the name suggests, “explore” SDSU.

The Compact Scholars Program presence at this year’s Explore SDSU event on March 18, 2017 was two-fold. In the morning, we partnered with the Compact for Success Program and the Sweetwater Unified High School District to host a celebration breakfast for newly admitted Compact Scholars. After the breakfast celebration, the Compact Scholars Program hosted two panel presentations featuring current Compact Scholars who shared what life as a Compact Scholar and SDSU student means to them.

SDSU Compact Scholars Program/Commuter Advisor Mercedes Albarran smiles for a post-panel picture.

This year’s Compact Scholars Program panel took place in North Education 160 and featured the Compact Scholars/Commuter Advisor Mercedes Albarran, who introduced the Compact Scholars Program and explained the programs and services it offers to qualifying Sweetwater students at SDSU. Sharing the stage with Mercedes, six student panelists talked about their own stories and experiences about the various aspects of the Compact Scholars Program, tying in their personal college experience and how the program assisted them.

Sophomore Paulina Cortez discussed the realities of commuting to campus every day and her experience as a Compact Scholar living off campus. Paulina said that she felt living off campus was the most economically wise option. However, by being an active member of the Compact Scholars program, Paulina remains an active student at SDSU. Since most Compact Scholars commute, Paulina’s experience gave the incoming freshmen a taste of what life in college could be like for them.

On the other side of the spectrum, freshman Monique Bareño gave students insight into her life living in the SDSU residence halls. She discussed some of the benefits of living on campus, such the convenience of being close to her on-campus job and classes. Monique gave the incoming freshmen a unique perspective on why it may be worth investing in their college experience in order to take advantage of all the benefits the Compact Scholars program as well as other organizations have to offer.

Next was Jacob Santo Domingo, who briefly explained his experience participating in various clubs. He explained that he is an active member in the Scholars for Success program, as well as the President of the Young Americans for Liberty. His role as a member of Scholars for Success is to create a sense of community within the Compact Scholars program. He explained that he has worked his way up to all the leadership roles in the clubs he participates in and encouraged incoming freshman students to do the same.

Next, Ariana Barajas shared her life-changing experience studying abroad for a semester in Spain. She showed students some of the photos of her favorite locations in Spain and how studying abroad enhanced her college experience, as well as some of the difficulties she faced. For example, Ariana shared a funny story about her first week in Spain. She explained that while home in the U.S she always went grocery shopping on Sundays. On her first Sunday in Spain, she intended to go grocery shopping but realized that businesses aren’t open on Sundays! Despite some of the obstacles Ariana faced, the skills she acquired as a Compact Scholar allowed her to adapt and ultimately have a fantastic time abroad.

The fifth panelist, Lorena Romero, shared her experience working on campus. As a commuter, Lorena felt that living off campus made her feel disconnected from her peers until she landed a job on campus at the DUS Student Lounge. As a front desk receptionist and student mentor, Lorena’s position gave her a sense of belonging despite living off campus.

Finally, Thelmalyn Montenegro spoke about her internships. Thelmalyn started off by debunking some myths about internships and explained that you can start interning as early as freshman year. She also emphasized that taking unpaid internships ultimately help students get their foot through the door. Using all of the Compact Scholars resources and the skills she learned from the program, Thelmalyn was able to jumpstart her career and is confident that her work experience will help her land a job after graduation.

Student panelists Lorena Romero, Jacob Santo Domingo, Thelmalyn Montenegro, Ariana Barajas, and Paulina Cortez pose for a group photo. Unpictured: student panelist Monique Bareño.

The student panelists seem to agree that their participation in the Compact Scholars Program enriched their college experiences. For example, many shared that by utilizing Compact Scholars Program resources such as the student lounge, academic advising, study abroad advising, and other key features of CSP, they felt empowered to advocate for themselves and improve their educational experience.

As an added bonus, after each panel, three audience members were chosen as winners of an opportunity drawing and won an SDSU water bottle, an SDSU keychain, or an SDSU t-shirt.

Overall, the Compact Scholars Program enjoyed a successful breakfast, and two informative panels at Explore SDSU. The program now looks forward to preparing its upcoming events: the 2nd Annual BeHIP SDSU Student Conference on April 8, 2017, and the Compact Scholars Program Graduation Reception on April 29, 2017.