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California State University, Long Beach
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Dr. Nilufer Medora and Haydee Flores-Castillo

From Mentee to Professional Mentor

W hen my parents decided to come to the United States to begin a new life, both were determined that education would be a priority for their children. My parents and I came from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico when I was 1 year old. At first, it was challenging to adapt to a new culture, a new language and a new lifestyle. Nonetheless, my parents instilled in me, and later in my three younger sisters, the spirit of perseverance and determination, a strong spirituality and a thirst for personal achievement. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and, shortly after, I decided to continue my education at CSULB. I remember visiting the campus during a Kaleidoscope event and knowing immediately that The Beach was where I wanted to be. The campus of CSULB felt welcoming, it was beautiful, it was close to home and, most importantly, it had the degree program I wanted to pursue and professors who really care about their students.

In 2003, I graduated with a bachelor of arts in child development and family studies. During my undergraduate years, I was very fortunate to meet my first mentor at The Beach, Dr. Nilufer Medora. Dr. Medora greatly assisted me with gaining confidence as a college student. Through the relationship I developed with her, I was able to determine that I wished to continue my stay at The Beach beyond my undergraduate education. She motivated me and was extremely supportive and very instrumental in assisting me through the application process for the master of social work program. I needed to continue to work as a program coordinator at a social service agency in Los Angeles to help my parents financially while putting myself through school, so I chose to enroll in the four-year MSW program on a part-time basis. I am proud to mention that during the third year of my post-graduate program, I was having the best time of my life planning my wedding with my boyfriend of 10 years. It was an arduous process to multi-task and manage all of the events in my life, but I never gave up.

With hard work and dedication, I was able to complete my post-graduate degree in 2007. I value Dr. Medora deeply for also fostering our relationship through the Partners for Success mentoring program. I am blessed that after eight years of a meaningful relationship, Dr. Medora continues to be my mentor in my professional life and she also is a very dear, personal friend.
After completing my MSW, I had the opportunity to work for a foster care social service agency in Long Beach. In that job, I learned new skills and gained experience with the foster care system. Eight months later, I was given a grand opportunity to work as a psychiatric social worker at a middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a PSW, I face new responsibilities and new challenges every day. Most importantly, I am able to stay faithful to my passion of helping adolescents with the social/emotional aspects of their lives through psychological first aid, crisis intervention, individual/group counseling and treatment.

Now, I am still on the road to personal and professional development. I am pursuing my license in clinical social work and I continue to look for ways to improve. Every semester, I am a regular guest speaker in Dr. Medora’s class where I share my experiences and internship opportunities. It is exciting to share with other CSULB students that it is possible to achieve personal and professional goals.

I am proud to say that I have accomplished what I set out to do. Having the support of our families and our mentors, being determined, believing in ourselves, continuing to persevere and striving for further education are the keys to reaching our goals. I am sure that every student at The Beach can certainly do the same. It is the best gift we can give ourselves.