Alejandra Duran, Yesenia Velazco and Julio Zamarripa never expected to go to college, much less work at one.
The three friends, each the first in their family to attend college, met at Sacramento City College through the Puente Project. Puente’s mission is to increase the number of underrepresented Mexican-American and Latino students who transfer to four-year colleges and universities, earn their college degrees, and return to their communities as mentors to future generations.
As the youngest of five siblings, Alejandra struggled with choosing to go to college over the cultural expectation that she would stay home and help with the family.
“That was hard for me because I’m very selfless, so I wanted to stay home, but I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone in order to grow,” Alejandra said.
“I was not thinking about college at all,” said Yesenia, who only signed up for SCC classes because a high school friend didn’t want to do it alone. “I knew I loved school and I knew I loved learning. But as a first generation student, I didn’t know how to get into college or what kind of resources were available.”
Having all transferred to UC Riverside and now with their undergraduate degrees in hand, they find themselves working in similar positions at different UC campuses, assisting new students through the admissions process. Alejandra is at UC Merced, Yesenia at UC Riverside, and Julio is at UC Santa Barbara.
Recently, they returned to SCC to participate in a transfer workshop representing the universities where they work. For the reunited friends, being back on campus brought back fond memories.
“As we were passing by the cafeteria, we were saying, ‘Remember we used to sit in that corner?’ That was our hangout spot two years ago,” Julio recalled.
This fall, Alejandra and Yesenia started the graduate program in career counseling at Sacramento State and Julio began working toward his master’s in educational counseling at the University of Laverne. However, for these friends, SCC will always be a place to call home.