Dream Project

April 25, 2019

Alumni Reflection: Mauricio Majano

mauriciomajano

A reflection by Mauricio Majano, former Dream Project student leader and now partner of the UW Dream Project

It took me a whole year at UW before joining the Dream Project as a mentor.

 

I was lucky to grow up with college as the expectation for my sister and I as first-generation students, so I stepped foot at the UW confidently. I knew college was where I would be, but as freshman year does, the learning curve of college finally hit me by spring quarter.

We won’t talk about my final grades that quarter, but this is when I realized there was still much to learn when it came to my study skills and feeling fully at-home on campus.

Despite coming in without an intended major and having to find a new community for myself, my first quarters were fairly smooth. I did make new friends through my FIG, service learning classes and my fraternity. I was even able to get into the Social Welfare major in the spring. It all looked pretty good on paper, but I definitely didn’t feel that I found my place quite yet.

I felt this most as I went through summer quarter. I had some making up to do from my spring classes (yes, spring quarter was that bad) but I also felt that I had to do more to feel connected to the campus. Social Welfare classes were officially coming up in the fall, and I had room in my schedule for one last class that might help me find my place.

I finally listened to my cousin Jonathan (at the time a mentee himself and eventual Dream Project mentor and leader) who was letting me know all about his own Dream Project mentors and how I should definitely look into joining from the moment I started at UW. When registration came up that summer, I finally emailed the High School Lead team at Ingraham and my Dream Project career would officially begin.

My experience that Fall was significantly different than similar service learning classes from prior quarters. This team of mentors was stacked with leaders and my future friends: Meili and Kyle were all star High School Leads creating a welcoming community; Fellow mentors Ben and Megan were student-leaders in the Dream Project; to top it off, several mentors were Ingraham alumni excited to be back in their communities. I felt welcomed and could see the impact this program made, not only with the high schoolers we met with but also with the growth it promoted for us as college students. The many leadership opportunities allowed us to grow in our knowledge of educational equity and social justice while gaining hands-on experiences in the high schools and on UW’s campus.

I was able to step into various roles as I continued, including High School Lead Manager and College and Career Readiness Assistant (CCRA). Here is where I confirmed that education and college access were the fields I wanted to pursue. It became apparent that the expectation of college that I grew up with is not the norm for first-generation students, while the struggle to find a community for those that do make it here was all too common. I knew that I wanted to continue being a part of increasing access and awareness for first generation students and ensuring that once we get there, we feel that we belong and see ourselves on all parts of the campus.

Six quarters later, graduation came and my experiences with Dream Project complimented my Social Welfare degree to prepare me for an Education Specialist role with Treehouse.

Earlier this school year, I transitioned into my current position as the College and Career Access Specialist at Highline High School, which is where it all started for me as a Dream Project CCRA four years ago. I continue to partner with Dream Project in this role, but I also run into my former co-mentors as college access professionals throughout the region. I get to refer my students to Admissions Advisors that I mentored with, and I see former High School Leads and CCRAs as fellow college and career specialists at events with our students. I’m thankful that my experience in Dream Project allowed me to build a knowledge-base and network to plug into the education access work in our region.

To any fellow First-Gen students currently finding their way in this college setting, I would encourage you to get involved to make that community for yourself wherever you can. Most importantly, share your experiences. Even if you’re not sure what’s next or don’t think much of your own story, the knowledge you gained from making it this far is valuable to those looking up to you, and trust me that someone back home or even nearby is looking up to you. Your story confirms that we belong in these spaces and that we will only continue to make a space for ourselves and each other.