Marvelina Barcelo is an academic counselor and co-director of the Transfer Center at Cerritos College.
Roaming the halls of the EOP building as a new freshman at UC Santa Barbara in my first quarter, it didn’t seem to have much to offer. A front desk counter greeted the new freshmen. A cozy lounge with couches and fancy bulletins from all the Latino-based student organizations entertained lost souls like me. Standing in front of the bulletin board in amusement, my new college friend, Paula, and I were interrupted by a rather cute looking guy. He introduced himself as Alex and asked us if we were new to UCSB. “Well hello, Alex,” I remember thinking. However, the smell of new UCSB jackets and crunchy back packs couldn’t dispel the fact that we were freshmen. Of course that didn’t worry us too much ‘cause our eyes were glued to his mesmerizing smile. He talked, we listened.
Before we realized it, Paula and I were sitting at our first university club meeting at UCSB. Alex happened to be the vice president of the Latino Business Association (LBA) and quickly persuaded us to give it a chance. After all, Paula and I were business majors. It made absolute sense!
This memory is quite significant to my undergraduate experience. Many of the skills I use today in my role of a counselor were born and enhanced through my involvement with LBA. So this makes me wonder why more students at Cerritos College choose not to participate in student clubs. Even the shyest student can learn and grow so much from simply being a member in a club. I was the very quiet and reserved student in my high school years. That did not stop me from being active, but it did stop me from pursuing a leadership position.
Everything I believed to be incapable of during high school was dramatically reversed in college. It was people like Alex who made everyone feel like they had potential. He took lost souls like me under their wing to mentor for leadership roles. As my college years flew by, my involvement with LBA expanded. By the time I graduated, I had served 4 years in LBA. My last two years I served as Co-Chair/President. Looking back, I would have never predicted my role in such an established university student organization. Not only did I reveal the many talents that existed within me but I also learned to adopt mentors along my journey. I will never forget the role Alex played in my first year of college because he helped to bring me out of my comfort zone. So, just when you dread participating in those club fundraisers or having to sit through with officers and members that annoy the heck out of you, remember that you are learning lifelong skills. Those lower-back-suffering car washes I had to endure and chaotic officer meetings in my apartment I had to organize were teaching me how to coordinate public events and how to work with different personalities. To this day, I continue to use those very same skills. In the end, I had nothing to lose, and getting involved my first year in college was a great investment. Always believe that there is something to learn from anything and anyone.