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After growing up in a tough neighborhood in Oakland – where there was more temptation than opportunity – DeWayne discovered Cosumnes River College (CRC) spoke to him. He connected to CRC's campus because of its serenity and positive atmosphere. He found he could think and reflect more easily without the added pressures of inner-city life.
CRC is where DeWayne discovered the joy of learning. And it is at the Oak Park Community Center where DeWayne shares his learning discovery with youth and teens who can benefit from real-life inspiration. He is there as a mentor, Youth Development trainer, and outreach & development coordinator; he has even advocated for them as an ambassador at city council meetings.
One thing DeWayne wants to do is make people feel the way his instructors at CRC made him feel – enlightened and inspired. DeWayne transferred from CRC to Sac State to study sociology and marketing and began establishing his own brand and non-profit as an artist named Consci8us. “My work, my music, and my coursework all work together. I feel like I’m manifesting everything I’ve worked for.”
1. How did you choose CRC?
I graduated from CRC with my Associates of Science in May 2014.
I began attending CRC in spring of 2011 knowing that there was a lot I wanted to achieve. Professionally, I didn’t have very much going for me, and I needed to change that.
I always had a love for computers, particularly information security, so I began by taking some general requirement classes as well as some CIS classes to get myself back into education.
My major was Computer Information Systems Security, in which I attained my Associates of Science. It was always something I had a huge passion for, and with the growing field of Information Security/Cybersecurity being needed by nearly any organization conducting business over the internet, it was also a lucrative degree in which to invest my time.
2. In what ways are instructor(s) at CRC different?
When I was taking my CISS 310 class, I chose to go with the hybrid course, which was more of an online class than on-grounds. I was surprised by the abundance of engagement the professor of this course, Lance Parks, had with the students (including myself). He was always there to answer questions about topics or concepts, and always made sure to follow-up with me so that I understood them.
There were times where I would meet with him during office hours to discuss things that didn’t make sense to me, and every time I would walk away having a much better understanding. Even after I completed CISS 310, I would continue to take my other required CIS classes with him. Over the years, he has become my mentor while navigating my educational and professional career.
Since then, we have become good friends and communicate often. It is this level of commitment professors of CRC and the Los Rios Community College District possess regarding the success of their students.
3. Were there any surprises/struggles along the way, and what did you learn from them?
At one point, I began getting frustrated with the educational path I was on to the point that I made the decision to stop attending college and focus on gaining professional experience.
This is something that I still struggle with, but I have learned that continuing your education leads to pathways previously unknown. There have been topics and areas of study that have fascinated me and led me to pursue more knowledge about them. I’ve never shut the door to education, because there is still so much that I do not know. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. That has been my take-away with regard to higher education.
CRC's Honors program's alumna and Sacramento native, Sarah (Hutter) Wilterson is a graduate student at Princeton University, where she is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and neuroscience scheduled to defend her dissertation in 2021, embodying the spirit of inquiry she acquired while at CRC.
As Wilterson explains, “For me, CRC was so many things. I started taking my first classes on campus when I was about 14—homeschooled growing up, I was able to start enriching my education through courses like math by the time I was in high school. After this initial introduction to community college, I graduated [high school] and enrolled as a fulltime student at CRC studying in equine science, believe it or not. I originally intended to spend my life working with horses.”
Wilterson marvels at her transformation from a teenager pursuing supplemental advanced general education, to pursuing an associate’s degree in equine science, to her current passionate work as a psychology doctoral candidate at Princeton. This evolution, she says, was made possible largely by the flexibility and support she enjoyed as a student at CRC. When asked why she initially elected to explore Psychology, she answers:
“No great philosophical reason— I just wanted to take one of the courses. I ended up talking to a lot of people. My time in the honors program offered a group of dedicated mentors. Finding people who will support you is important. Really important. The Honors Program is a great way to meet mentors who can help as you move through college and beyond.” Looking back on her CRC experience as a whole, Wilterson adds, “Being involved in such a diverse range of programs over the course of so many stages of my academic and professional career, I truly feel I got the ‘full experience’ at CRC.”
Reflecting on some of the differences between life at Princeton and while at CRC, Wilterson notes that the CRC Honors Program’s, “Small classes, and material that professors are genuinely excited about, are great for exploring topics in the way that the experts wish you could.” In comparing her time at Princeton and CRC, she says “The experience is a bit like the difference between swimming laps and a water park: sure you enjoy swimming, but the water park is special.”
Speaking of the connection between her academic past and present, Wilterson says:
“We've just started our fall semester [at Princeton] and every new group of students makes me think of [CRC Honors Program faculty member Dr. Rick Schubert] as I strive to pass on the gift that [he] gave me. I teach a Research Methods Lab, and my favorite phrase this year is, ‘But why—who cares?’ The students seem to respond well to the challenge of that question.”
Still connecting on a regular basis with the academic orientation she developed while at CRC, Wilterson reaches back to concepts from her time at CRC to connect to her students at Princeton today—carrying forward the spirit of critical inquiry she internalized as a student in CRC’s Honors Program.
Schubert explains that there is a question he asked of Wilterson and her fellow students on a weekly basis in the Honors seminar she took with him while at CRC and still asks of his Honors students today. After requesting a summary of the reading and receiving a ready answer from his seminar students, he always follows up with “But why—who cares?"
His question is an invitation to Honors Program students to go beyond a surface understanding of the reading to a critical engagement with the material that leads students to do their own original work alongside the author of the material. The Honors Program at CRC invites students to think beyond the surface what to the why, transforming students from passive consumers of academic information to actively productive scholars in their own right.
Schubert explains how excited he is to see the impact this approach has on the academic progress and growth of students like Wilterson:
“I’m deeply gratified to know that Sarah is still carrying forward, and sharing with her own
students at Princeton, the spirit of critical inquiry that she acquired as a student in CRC’s Honors Program. That spirit is central to what our Honors Program is all about.”
He emphasizes that all interested CRC students are invited to apply to the Honors Program, which offers not only enhanced IGETC-satisfying General Education courses, but an array of co-curricular opportunities and support services. Honors students have the chance to attend and even to present at academic conferences and symposia, to participate in special field trips and social events, and to receive support from the program’s counseling and academic advising services.
Explaining how CRC acted as a vehicle for change for her and what she continues to gain as a CRC Honors alum, Wilterson says:
“CRC is a continued source of support and guidance. I only ever took one actual Psych class, during my time at Cosumnes, but I got the full experience. I got to talk to a lot of people I might not have met otherwise. I asked questions. Professors took the time to explain to me what each career path could look like. That made the biggest impact--to have people sit down and actually talk with me and together we outlined what I want my career path to look like.”
Wilterson is proud to count herself a member of the CRC family who continues to actively benefit from her robust educational experience at CRC and who continues to grow professionally with the support of her mentors at CRC.
What has been the key motivating factor or factors in your life to pursue your goal(s)?
I wanted financial independence and to have a career that will last me the rest of my life. I also wanted a career that was challenging and that I would be making a difference in the world. Wierzbicki says he’s inspired by, “All of the anonymous people who push through adversities because they don't allow any obstacles to write their life stories.”
How do you think CRC prepared you for your future?
My major was Information Systems Assurance. I was attracted to the cybersecurity aspect of computer science because of political events happening all around the world centered around information warfare and cyber-crime. The various courses offered allowed me to test the waters of what interested me. I was able to pinpoint which direction I wanted to take in my new career.
Cosumnes River College classes were affordable. The staff seemed to enjoy their jobs and take their students seriously. I always felt safe on campus.
What advice do you have for students and future students?
I graduated from University of San Francisco in 2005 with a BA in Media Studies. After graduating, I worked in commercial real estate and insurance for ten years. I decided to go back to school to explore my passion of computer science and technology.
It is never too late to change your career path. I went back to school and started my new career in my mid-thirties.
Cosumnes River College and Sacramento State graduate (cum laude) Sarah Aboueljoud will tell you something surprising. The Dominican University of California bound, future physician assistant says she cut class in high school, graduated without the know-how to study effectively, and walked away with the false assumption that she was bad at math.
Sarah remembers vividly the day she discovered the math lab at CRC. She says that was the day she learned college is not so much about getting the correct answer as it is learning how to solve problems. By the end of her first year, and with the help of caring professors who taught her how to be a good student through positive academic habits, Sarah actually was a good student.
At CRC, Sarah says classes felt more intimate because teachers knew her by name. She found them welcoming, accommodating, and willing to listen. They understood that life gets in the way sometimes, Sarah remembers, but the teachers had a passion for learning and giving their students the tools to thrive.
A tool to thrive that Sarah relied on was the campus itself. She loved spending time at the fountain and listening to the sounds of the flowing water, and her favorite building at CRC is the Winn Center. To relax, Sarah would walk the hallways, soak in the rays from the large windows and admire the art and photography on the walls. Otherwise, Sarah spent her days hanging around her newfound home away from home, the anatomy lab in the science building. She credits the campus for supplying the learning environment she needed.
Sarah was amazed how easy Los Rios Community College District made it to get an A.S or A.A degree and open a world of career possibilities. With every class she took, she says she learned something about herself and new skills to apply to her personal life.
Sarah readily admits that going to CRC eased her transition to a four-year college and allowed her time to mature and figure out what she truly wanted. She is convinced that community college helped guide her by mapping out a career path toward the profession she loves.
Sarah is the first in her family to study for an advanced degree, and is proud to set a new standard for higher education within her family. What she’ll take to grad school is what she acquired at Cosumnes River College: the means to be successful.
Gurvinder Sidhu is the first to admit that acquiring his diagnostic medical sonography degree at Consumes River College (CRC) was rigorous. However, he did have insight while acquiring it that many community college students don’t. Gurvinder knew firsthand the benefits of a college education. He and his wife had already earned degrees in their native country India before moving to the United States.
As a practicing physician in his homeland, Gurvinder assumed that he could carry on his dedication to healing in his newly adopted country. But rules and regulations got in the way, and Gurvinder found himself starting over at CRC, a prospect he at first found a bit depressing.
Gurvinder didn’t realize he had a very American problem. He had to find a way to work and support his family and be a partner in raising two young children while maintaining a full schedule of college-level courses. Luckily, his wife and family were supportive, and so were the faculty and staff at CRC. Gurvinder says they understood his unique situation and helped. Their support and willingness to extend a hand is a kindness Gurvinder won’t forget.
He also won’t forget how prepared he was to enter the workforce once he had his degree in hand. The experienced faculty and staff were extremely knowledgeable, and he considers CRC’s ultrasound/sonographer program excellent. He found the practicing clinical hospital sites to be the best, and was impressed with the infrastructure, labs, classes, library, and sports complex at CRC.
Gurvinder says the job offers poured in after graduation, and he was hired immediately. He is happy with his good salary and his wife and children are very proud. He can affirm now that everything worked out. At CRC, he made lasting friends, and by practicing in a medical field, he is living his life the way he says he was born to do.
Did you always want your major or did you change your course?
I attended CRC to continue my basketball and academic careers. When I first got to college, I wanted to be a sports trainer so I got into Kinesiology. I ended up switching to sociology because of the many paths I can take with that degree. Recently, I was able to transfer with a full ride scholarship to play basketball for Xavier University of Louisiana, where I plan on pursuing sociology and minor in education.
What is your main motivation?
Key motivators for me would have to be my family. I want to be great and “secure the bag” and make my family proud.
I used to never take schooling serious before college—now, I see the growth. My future goals are to one day play (basketball) overseas or I would like to work with education and finding greater educational opportunities, environments, and funding for low income areas in the country.
What is your advice to current and future students?
I have definitely had struggles throughout my academic career, but the staff is amazing at CRC.
The instructors and staff are the best part about the college. Everyone is so helpful. One of my professors who motivated me was also my advisor. Not only was she an excellent instructor, but she was available in office hours to just talk. She pushed me to want to be great especially as a young black man. And as an athlete, I can say from experience that the CRC basketball program is top notch. Some of the best coaching in JUCO.
My advice is to find something you love, then make it into a dream.
Chase it. Catch it. Make it into your reality.
“There’s always a bag to chase.”
Never be satisfied—there’s always more to give.
What's your favorite aspect of working Student Success & Support Program at CRC?
The fact that we have the possibility to positively impact in the academic/personal journey of our students, it’s humbling and an honor.
What is unique about our student programs?
What is unique about the student programs at CRC, is the staff/faculty’s passion and dedication for the work we do. We understand we are working with amazing students, who teach us how to best serve them every day. We empower students to do things and to share their stories.
What would you like to share with current and future CRC students?
I would like every future CRC student to know that, here at CRC, they will be supported, respected and connected. We are here for the students and we can’t wait to see you on our campus!
Julia Wong made a strategic and financially-smart decision. Instead of going straight to a five-year accredited college and incurring all those expenses, she decided to enroll in an affordable program close to home and get a great foundation for a future career.
Her encouraging family agreed. They’ve always had Julia’s future top-of-mind, so when they discovered the Los Rios Community College District was offering high school students classes at no cost, they encouraged Julia to start taking some so she could get a head start on her dream career – architecture.
And she did. By the time high school graduation rolled around, Julia had already acquired units at Cosumnes River College, the only community college architecture program in the region that is recognized by several professional schools as being one offering classes that provides transferrable credits. For a promising architecture student like Julia who someday wanted to own her own architecture and design firm, Cosumnes River College was the perfect place to launch her ambition.
Julia loved her classes. Books were easily accessible and although sometimes she faced a waitlist situation at registration time, she says she eventually would be admitted as plans changed for some enrolled students, making room for Julia.
What Julia didn’t anticipate was her new exposure to a diverse college community where students found common ground through their studies. And, she says, there were always community events happening on campus which made it easy to meet people with similar interests.
Julia continues to walk her own path, and her dream of becoming an entrepreneur who owns an architectural firm came true. Be open to opportunities that come your way, she advises, and community college is one, big great opportunity.
CRC and Honors Program alumnus, Chris Adams, is a true community leader. He runs an educational non-profit. He is a civil rights activist, serving as Sacramento Chapter Leader for the People's Alliance for Justice. He provided community support surrounding the Stephon Clark case. He helped get AB392 (The California Act to Save Lives) signed and was present at the bill's signing.
Having graduated from CRC in Spring 2019, Adams, now living in West LA, is pursuing his Bachelor's degree in sociology at UCLA, where he continues his devotion to political activism and community service. Adams is also extremely passionate about football. He began college after finding out that the career in collegiate football he envisioned for himself at the time would require a foundation in his own college education. As he explains, "I came into wanting to football coach and just needed my BA for that. Earning my degree in sociology is really going to help with any of my future goals."
One thing Adams has learned from his work in advocacy is how to work with a variety of people. Given his experience with many diverse community groups in Northern California during his time at CRC and now with the people in his growing community in LA, Adams says he's been able to figure out how different groups of people work with each other. He describes his recent education in and outside of the classroom in terms of "Learning a lot about how to interact with people. Getting a degree will help me if I want to get into law school, getting a BA will help me do the things I want to do with education and employment beyond where I am today."
Growing up, Adams claims he was never good at school, "I said I couldn't do it," Adams explains, commenting on his self-doubts. "I never thought that I would be an honors student. But then, I did really well for two semesters and got invited to join honors – I think you get a note that you're eligible. And so it was ironic, because just as I was saying I couldn't do it [...] I got the notice. So, when I was finally invited to honors, I was scared initially. I was scared to challenge myself – I thought if I took honors, my GPA would drop and I wouldn't get into the universities." But Adams' successful transfer to UCLA underscores how the CRC Honors Program opened doors for him and increased his self-confidence.
Reflecting on his experience in Honors, Adams notes "The CRC Honors program is really like a close community – everybody kind of knows each other, you'll end up sharing a lot of the same classes. Honors is not a requirement – [program participation is elective], so everyone has chosen to be there – they want to challenge themselves. As Adams explains, "Most of these people wanted to go to university and many of them end up going to those universities. The honors community as a whole [has] bigger goals outside of their immediate experience. It's a like-minded group – they all understand there is a lot of work, but we all try to help each other. We are to share openly with one another without fear of judgment and to help one another. We know it's going to be hard, so we're all sharing this experience and want to be there for one another. If we saw someone struggling we had others there to make sure we [are] okay, to check in on each other." Reflecting more broadly on the program, Adams notes the level of educational support Honors provides: "They are able to prepare you for any university."
While Adams currently getting himself established in LA, Adams notes,"Keeping active in Sacramento is still important to me." His focus is on continuing to grow his network of strong mentors. "I've been meeting a lot of professionals who've studied law and are able to give me a lot more information. Making a bigger impact on the community as a whole is my immediate plan for the future."
Adams already runs a non-profit called Game Changer. "It's supposed to be able to train people with life skills including how to interview, etiquette, study habits, ways to network. Eventually, I'd like to turn it into a general education preparation school that offers counseling and other resources. There's a grant coming up I am applying for to see what little steps I can start to take to make it bigger than it already is." When asked how his time in the CRC Honors program has contributed to his success, he replied "I just really got a great experience. I got to understand that if you do the work and challenge yourself and ask for help...asking for help is the main thing. Just put in the work – you can do anything you set your mind to."
CRC Honors Program alum, Dr. Jacob Velasquez, offers a unique perspective on the value of Honors as a new member of the faculty at his alma mater. Originally from Sacramento, Velasquez feels fortunate to be back and close to family after his adventures between being an honors student and teaching at CRC. Throughout his academic journey, Velasquez kept in touch with his former Honors instructor, Rick Schubert, who appreciates the scope of his colleague’s relationship with CRC. Schubert notes, “Jacob is at the start of his career as an academic professional, the culmination of a considerable transformation. He came to CRC as a Marine Corps combat veteran, already married, a parent, the first in his family to attend college, unsure exactly what direction the rest of his work life would take, and unsure of the value of his own ideas. But he left CRC with a clear sense of where he wanted to go in his professional life and how to get there. He left a confident scholar, knowing that his ideas have value, his interests are important, and that pursuing them makes a positive difference in the world. He’s a testament to the transformative power of our Honors Program.”
Honors helped Velasquez to set his goals and achieve them providing him, Velasquez says, with the skills vital for academic success. And Velasquez has certainly been successful, transferring to UC Berkeley for his B.A., earning a Ph.D. at UC Davis, and landing a faculty position at CRC. Paramount among all of the benefits he acquired through Honors, Velasquez explains, “was the confidence I gained that led me on my path toward becoming a professor, and that helped me overcome the many obstacles I encountered along the way.”
When asked about his experience as a CRC student before and after joining the program, Velasquez notes that Honors provides the opportunity to approach General Education from the standpoint of a topical focus. Recalling his own experience in Philosophy of the Martial Arts (HONOR 364), he observes that students in the seminar don’t merely study philosophy in general, but instead study philosophy as it relates to martial arts. The benefit, he points out, is the opportunity for students to connect the subject matter to something specific in their lives and to see it as a part of a larger conversation.
Another important difference between Honors courses and other courses, Velasquez notes, concerns class size. The smaller number of students in an Honors course, he attests, gives students not only greater access to the instructor but also to the material itself. Velasquez remembers being an active participant in delivering material during Honors class meetings, as he and his fellow Honors students were able to present their original research and answer each other’s questions about the topic of that research.
Reflecting on his Honors experience, Velasquez says two of the most important lessons he learned were that he was capable of contributing to a community of scholars who have interests like his own, and that pursuing his own research is very fulfilling. Turning to the present, he says “I'm very attracted to the idea that, by teaching here, I am helping students who are a lot like I was gain an ability they can use to make their lives better in the same way that I was able to.”
Cosumnes River College architecture alumna Jacqueline Padilla Perez proudly recalls her experience at the college and the impact of her professors.
“What I loved most about CRC is that they offer an amazing architecture program based on the Cal Poly curriculum,” she said. “The professors are top notch, the design fundamentals that one gains from them are phenomenal. I know of many students who have come out of CRC's architecture program that have gone on to become hugely successful in the profession in varied niches.”
Perez said the encouragement she received from her professors kept her motivated. “In my experience the wonderful thing about CRC professors is that they consider themselves to not only be teachers, but also mentors, confidants, and partners,” she said.
Perez didn’t always know that she wanted to be in the architecture field, she was working for Ikea as a coordinator in the sofas and media department and had interviewed for a new position that required her to take additional courses in order to be qualified. Those courses led her to the architecture program at CRC. With support and motivation driven from her family, she worked her way through the classes. After completing the program, she transferred to Sacramento State, where in 2014 she would earn her degree in interior architecture.
“While drawing the plan for my dream home, I literally stopped and exclaimed, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do with my life!’ I will never forget that moment. Architecture and design proved to be the perfect marriage of my creative and mechanical abilities,” Perez said.
The former CRC student has been successful in her pursuit to become an interior designer. With her passion and dedication, she is was recently appointed Creative Director at Miles Treaster & Associates, an interior design and furniture dealership in Sacramento. In explaining her new role she said, "As Creative Director I work with our Sales and Design teams to establish the creative vision for high profile projects. We are currently working on the design of the offices and lounge spaces at the new Golden 1 Center. It has been an incredibly amazing and exciting project to work on! My role is ever changing."
Perez is currently working towards her master’s degree in historic preservation with dreams of spending her golden years restoring an 18th century colonial home. After living in it, she would like to donate it as a house museum for others to visit and learn about history and architecture after she’s long gone.
Going to community college right after high school can be overwhelming if money is tight and scheduling classes around a work schedule feels like threading a needle. Fortunately, community college students are discovering that help is there for the asking, and community college can be an option for everyone.
Just ask Navjot Randhawa. The aspiring early childhood teacher who worked two jobs and maintained a 3.6 grade point average at Cosumnes River College knows all about being overwhelmed. She dropped out of community college shortly after high school out of exasperation and went to work. But the yearning to teach was powerful as were a couple of family role models. Her brother is a sixth grade teacher and her mother, a retired teacher who taught elementary school in India, encouraged Navjot to get back into the college arena. This time – Navjot promised herself – she was going to approach education differently.
Navjot re-enrolled and discovered the Early Childhood Education Program at CRC had a Pathways to Success Program at CRC’s Child Development Center. The Center was a lifeline for Navjot. The program there promotes a student-centered approach to foster the spirit and diligence to be a successful student and lifelong learner, exactly the skills Navjot needed to pursue her goals.
At the Center, Navjot found a community of professors and students who, like her family, shared her passion for teaching, and the resources, textbooks, and computers to use for studying. Navjot received an AA degree in Early Childhood Education, an Associate Teacher Certificate and an Early Childhood Education Master Teacher Certificate, and plans to transfer and obtain her master’s in child development.
Navjot who likes to hike and volunteers at the Montessori Country Academy, squeezes in some fun with friends at their own entertainment space, a converted garage. She tells anyone who will listen her formula for success: get involved and Los Rios Community Colleges will come to you.
Evelina Rybin is one of the lucky ones. Even in high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. Evelina was going to go to American River College (ARC) and become a paramedic. She knew but didn’t care that college was going to be hard – but what she didn’t anticipate was a predisposition against community colleges coming from (of all people) a high school teacher, and a bias against her career choice harbored by her family and friends.
Yet, Evelina persevered. She enrolled at ARC after finishing high school and went to work on her prerequisite courses. But one of the preconditions for the ARC paramedicine program is a year of first-responder field experience as an emergency medical technician. Undeterred, Evelina found an EMT internship class that sent her to a few Cosumnes Fire Department stations. At the fire stations, Evelyn learned all about a fire internship offered at Los Rios’ Cosumnes River College. She took a fire technology class and was hooked!
Evelina is planning to graduate with an associate degree in paramedicine, one in fire technology, and another one in foreign language studies. She hopes to get hired at a local fire department, and she wants to pursue a bachelor's degree in fire science; maybe even a master's. While fighting fires, Evelina envisions teaching fire tech for the Los Rios Community College District, a place where she found shared passion, friendship, and a place to belong.
The doubters in Evelina’s life who disapproved of her choices have come around to accept Evelina’s determination to follow her passion, and are even proud of her accomplishments. And to the high school teacher who snubbed community college? Tell your students there are options for everyone at Los Rios, so they should enroll in classes, find an interest, and follow their hearts – Just like Evelina did.
At Cosumnes River College, the MESA program provides math, engineering, and science academic development to underrepresented community college students. The goal is to help them excel academically and transfer to four-year institutions as science, engineering, and math majors. This support is crucial in helping students from low-performing high schools reach their academic potential and become technical professionals.
Thanks to generous donors, the MESA Program received a mini-grant from the Los Rios Colleges Foundation to help them attend the Student Leadership Retreat (SLR). The SLR is chance for community college students to interact, network, and build leadership skills with other MESA students. This leadership and skill-building conference features hands-on STEM sessions, including chemistry study, engineering design, and coding.
CRC student Jun Li says, "The MESA Student Leadership Retreat provided us a platform to expand our network beyond just our own community. I befriended students all over California. We collaborated to solve problems and learned about interesting subjects that we would otherwise not be able to learn. But most importantly, my fellow MESA members shared stories that resonated with my experience and motivated me to be a better leader."