This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Hertha Torre Gallego, COL ’24
I believe education is the foremost important asset in one’s life. Yet, many people do not have access to it, or cannot find the right opportunities for them. As an international student from Spain, I found myself astonished by the Liberal Arts curriculum offered at universities like Penn, yet I felt puzzled while finding my way around applications, deadlines, and financial documents. Luckily, I found the Aditus Program — a Spanish program which provides mentorship, financial help, and training to a selection of Spanish students with limited resources throughout the college application process. Thanks to them, I was fortunate enough to fulfill my dream of being accepted at my dream college, Penn.
After my college application experience, I felt the need to get involved and give back to Spanish students in similar circumstances, and thus I teamed up with Aditus and became the Main Coordinator for the upcoming cohorts. That is how, over these past summer months, I have coordinated a team of over 30 Spanish mentors and 22 first-generation, low-income Spanish mentees.
My position mainly entailed creating content for the mentees, but also counseling them, assessing their mid-year evaluation, and creating an unforgettable and valuable experience for them to reflect on and find new goals and objectives for their future trajectories. My hours spent evaluating applications, engaging in productive discussions with the mentors, building guides and content for the mentees to use, and gathering with my coworkers to build a free-cost experience for these students culminated in the idea of being the owner of our education. Reflecting on this experience, I now understand that this project goes well beyond educational opportunities — it provides the mentees brand new perspectives and outlooks on life, and it teaches us entrepreneurship and problem-solving skills.
As a sophomore interested in healthcare, public health, and higher education, I am currently spending my time at Penn finding parallels and correlations between these topics. Indeed, I have often learned that the education we have access to is directly related to our health and success; hence why it is essential to make educational opportunities available to minority populations. Because of this, one of the most influential aspects of my summer experience was being able to listen and understand the mentees’ needs, experiences, and frustrations with the Spanish education system. Hearing and encountering these circumstances has profoundly shaped and nuanced my future interests in public health, higher education, and its defects — inspiring me to find solutions.
Overall, this summer I was able to dedicate my time to promoting and bringing together a community of students that have discovered a new set of ambitions and opportunities for their future. I am especially thankful for Career Services’ help, as they have helped me not worry about financial issues, bettering my experience and providing the perfect environment to grow. I now look forward to future opportunities that will make me discover new facets of my own education while helping others.