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Celebrating the BESST Graduates

Published May 20, 2021

Rebeca Griego will be working as a systems engineer at Astroscale and cultivating her interest in space debris. Matthew Mendoza was hired by a civil engineering company in Orange. And Nia Sanchez will be doing volunteer work in Mexico.

The trio are among the latest graduates of the College of Engineering’s Beach Engineering Student Success Team (BESST), a cohort-based program that provides additional tutoring and support to students who may not otherwise have studied engineering.

Beginning in Fall 2021, thanks to retired Boeing senior project engineer Dorothy Benveniste, four BESST students who will be juniors or seniors will receive BESST Alumni Scholarships. “You are to be commended for reaching your goals,” Benveniste told the graduates during the BESST End-of-Year Celebration, adding that she hopes the scholarships will “lighten your load a little.”

Each year, two cohorts of about 25 students enter the program, often serving as BESST tutors as they advance. Administered by Director of Outreach & Recruitment Saba Yohannes Reda and Program Coordinator Brenda Santillan, the program is known not only for producing graduates but also lifelong friendships.

Civil engineering graduates Mendoza and Nathaniel Kapongo became best friends through BESST and co-chaired the CSULB chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “The program has been a big help, not only academically but in making friends,” said Kapongo, who is finishing up an internship with the city of Los Angeles and aims to become a city traffic engineer.

Sanchez said fellow BESST students were there for her when she lost a close friend to a drive-by shooting. “BESST has always held a very special place in my heart. I wouldn’t have been a successful student without it,” she said. “My growth is a reflection of everyone’s support.”

Griego, like the other graduates, offered advice to BESST freshmen. She completed four internships while at CSULB. But to land those internships, she sent out more than 500 resumes, using LinkedIn to build her network and discover opportunities. "Don’t give up,” she said. “The key is to keep looking for those opportunities. Things aren’t going to magically show up at your door.”

For more information about the program, visit csulb.edu/coe-besst or the BESST Facebook page. The deadline to apply for the next cohort is Sunday, June 6.