Derick Vanegas

             My exposure to the program came in multiple forms. I heard of it through word of mouth as well as by seeing flyers and cards that spoke about the program. I was immediately intrigued by what I learned about the program and wanted to learn more about how I could apply. I was interested in joining because I saw it as a great opportunity to meet new people and establish connections with them. It also seemed like a great way to become further invested in the Latino Community here at Purdue. I knew from the beginning that it would be a positive experience for me and a chance to put myself out there and learn something new.

            Avanzando Through College has impacted my college experience this semester for the better. ATC is something I always look forward to whenever we have our sessions. I enjoy our sessions and interacting with the coordinators, mentors, and other students. I have developed a genuinely good connection with my mentor and feel inspired to pursue becoming a mentor for ATC once I have completed the program myself. The program adds to my college experience by giving me something I can always depend on to teach me something that I may not know since I am a first-generation college student.

            I try to use the skills I’ve gained through the program every day if I can. One session that stands out that I constantly think back to and try to implement in my day-to-day life was the discussion about mental health and taking care of yourself. It was interesting to listen and learn about something I knew so little about. I know now that mental health is very important and can be utilized in our lives in ways that are both big and small. Simply taking the time to do something that brings us joy and peace of mind from the things that may prove to be difficult in our lives is of immeasurable importance. I also enjoyed the session about celebrating identity, as that is something I am very passionate about. I believe identity is an important aspect of life that is to be celebrated and that people should be proud of.

            The aspects of my journey that I believe set me apart are similar to those that set many apart. Every person has a distinct and unique story to tell about their lives. Of course, we are all connected in being first-generation college students and/or being Latino/a/x/e; but we still each have our own individual perspectives and narratives of our lives and experiences. What I believe separated me from the rest of my cohort was my passion for wanting to join a program and wanting to participate and be as engaged as I possibly could be. Even now halfway through the program, I feel as enthusiastic and excited as I did when I was first applying. I remember how emotional I became when expressing my gratitude to Purdue’s LCC staff for running a place that I can call home when I am in a place that is so unfamiliar to me. Walking in and being greeted by a community that welcomes me with loving arms always puts a smile on my face. This is also how Avanzando Through College makes me feel. With each session, I walk in hungry to learn and gain some new experience and leave feeling infinitely happier knowing I’ve learned more about myself, the program, the topic being discussed, and about those around me. I love the energetic rush of emotions that comes over me and how welcome and included I feel whenever I look at my calendar and see I have an Avanzando Through College session coming up. While I am sure many of the other students in the program feel this way I can’t help but feel that this excitedness and passion is what may have set me apart from the others.

            I am connected to the organization by many means. I am a student at Purdue University who comes to the Latino Cultural Center quite often. While at times my schedule can be a bit busy, I try to make an effort to stop by whenever possible, even if it is only for a few minutes. As a member of Avanzando Through College, I also find myself here for our meetings and usually find myself here during my meetings with my mentor. I hope to be further connected by one day becoming a mentor myself and helping to guide the group of bright young minds that will make up the next Avanzando Through College cohort.


Jessika Cuatlocuatl

As the youngest and first-generation student, I had the huge advantage of growing up in a family that supported and valued education. With the support from my family, I have been able to have big dreams such as pursuing my career in dentistry and public health while becoming an advocate for higher education in the Latinx community. Though my family supports my goals it was difficult to start the process and navigate through college as a first-gen and go into the health field. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my first year in college was a new experience that many got to encounter, from having to work remotely to limited socializing. I was really fortunate in becoming part of the Latinx community through the Latino Cultural Center (LCC) and the Latinx Student Union on campus. Through the LCC, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to participate in this year’s program AVANZANDO through College at Purdue University. With the lowered COVID-19 precautions, we have been able to hold more events and visit the LCC which is how I learned about the new program AVANZANDO. I applied for the program as its main focus was to guide Latinx first-gen students, like myself, through college and develop skills to enhance our future career while building relationships. Through the program this semester, I’ve grown so much as a person and early professional. I have been able to make so many valuable connections with the participants and mentors, something that I struggled with during my first year. One of the most impactful sessions held was celebrating identity which helped empower me and become more confident with my goals. I’ve taken initiatives such as taking advantage of resources on campus and seeking more opportunities like becoming a research assistant. Overall, I’ve had an amazing experience this semester with the program and look forward to continuing to participate and support programs such as AVANZANDO.