Simon Scholars Program
College and Alumni Newsletter                                                                                              
April 2015


April 2015

Greetings everyone, and Happy Spring!

We hope that you all had a successful and eventful Spring semester so far. As you may know, we just completed our Class of 2017 Scholar Selections. Two of our Alums, Ronald Orozco and Mandy Chavez, participated in the interview and selection process. It was great to have them share a bit of their stories with all the applicants; their faces lit up when they heard that Mandy and Ronald were ACTUAL Simon Scholars who had already graduated from college!

If you have read the previous Newsletters, then you are aware that we have been discussing a college-level Peer Mentoring Program for some time now. Due to a number of unexpected circumstances, we were forced to postpone the launch of the program this semester. However, we remain interested in developing this program next academic year. Thanks to those of you who participated in the initial brainstorming and planning sessions.


We are currently planning to hold a day-long event for all of our college students this summer, likely in late July. I envision this as an opportunity for our upperclassmen and college alums to facilitate some small-group conversations and large-group activities about what to expect as you matriculate to and through college. Please let Mike know if you are interested in serving as a facilitator for this event. We will share more details as they arise.


In preparation for this Spring Newsletter, we asked you to submit some stories about your college experience. The “Scholar Updates” below represent some of what you shared with us. It is incredibly inspiring to hear all the accounts of how you have engaged in your campus communities, taken on leadership roles and worked to make a positive impact. We understand that, for some, college is all about the parties and friends and good times. While we certainly encourage you all to have FUN while you are in college, it is impressive to see how young people such as yourselves, out on your own for the first time, are able to see through all of that and participate in a much deeper and more meaningful way. Congratulations to all of you for your passion, persistence, and GRIT! You are the reason this program was created. Keep up the good work!

Simon Scholar Summer Gathering

When: Friday, June 12, 2015
Where: The University of New Mexico
Time: TBA


On June 12, 2015, the Simon Scholars Program will hold a gathering at UNM to reconnect, share stories and celebrate the unique group that are the Simon Scholars.

College and high school graduates will be honored and our newest high school scholars will be introduced to the Simon Scholars family.
We hope you'll join us for this event. All high school, college  and alumni scholars are invited!

More details to come!

College Plaza

Congratulations to Amanda Chavez (’10 SVA and ’14 Cornell College) and Mariana Bustillos (’12 WMHS and current UNM student) for their invaluable roles assisting with our College Plaza pilot this semester at Atrisco Heritage High School and Manzano High School.

Across recent weeks, they provided weekly college transition mentoring and support for 9th-12th grade students ranging from FAFSA to college applications to resume development to summer opportunities.  Their presence, insights and skills on behalf of so many students mattered.  Thank you!

We will continue to update you on potential high school mentoring opportunities with College Plaza (both in Albuquerque and Santa Fe high schools) as we look toward next year.   

Fund Requests

We recently made changes to the Fund Request process to make it easier for our scholars to request funds and fill out the semester check in .

From now on, when you log into the portal, you'll click on the "Student Check-in" on the left hand side of the page under the Useful Links menu. This will bring you to your profile page with all your contact and school information. You'll then click on "Check In" at the top of the page to complete your semester check in and request funds.

The check in process encompasses your contact information, semester check in and fund request process all in one. If you are not requesting funds, you'll need to enter "0" in the section asking how much money you are requesting.

You will need the following information to complete your check in:
  • Final grades for Spring 2015 semester

  • Class schedule for the Summer 2015 Fall 2015 semester

  • Financial Aid Award Letter

    ** You will upload these documents at the end of the check in process.




Antonio Maestas, a freshman at Earlham College in central Indiana, shared this story about his transition from Albuquerque High to a private, liberal arts college more than 1000 miles away:


           When I was a senior in high school I had no idea what the future was going to bring about. I have to admit I was nervous.  I applied to 8 colleges, 7 of which I was accepted and one where I was waitlisted.  This made things slightly harder as I now had to choose one college out of seven that I liked best.  I rode things out, to let my feelings develop.  By April I had narrowed down my choices to three options, Earlham College, Bard College, and Cornell College.  I knew that I could only attend one so I visited my number one choice, Earlham.  When I arrived on campus I had a plan to check if Earlham was the right place for me.  I made a checklist of the three most important things, class size, quality of teaching, and comfort.  After a few days of being on campus I knew Earlham was the right place for me.

           Upon my arrival to campus, I didn’t know what living alone was going to be like since it was my first time.  But I couldn’t turn back after making it this far.  The first few weeks were fine but the honeymoon phase began to wear off.  I started second guessing whether I made the right choice or not and I had considered to transfer back to New Mexico.  I was feeling homesick, sad, and confused.  I called home almost everyday and had conversations with Mike and Christina and my family about returning to New Mexico.

           These conversations helped me realize that this was all normal and a part of the process of adjustment.  I was patient and allowed myself to keep an open mind and push through these hard times.  I am very glad that I did because many opportunities were opened for me, ones that I would not get at any other school, and one of which I am very excited about.  I applied to the Tibetan Studies program in Northern India and was accepted.  In this program we will stay in India for the entire fall semester living with Tibetan families to learn the language, history and culture.  We will also have a 90-minute private session with His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama.

           As I am approaching the end of my first year of college I am glad I stayed where my heart led me.  I am very happy where I am and I can’t picture being anywhere else.  So here is my advice to you:  if your heart leads you with its decision, there is a purpose for it.  Never act upon instant emotions. Take the time to adjust and understand that hardships will come about, but they are only temporary.  The transition is different for everyone so do your research and trust in your feelings.  Everything always works out.  It may be hard to picture yourself away from home and it may seem impossible.  Just know, many have done it before you and you can do it too.  I wish all Scholars well in their academic adventures. Good luck and congratulations to all of you.” 

My Experience as a Minority in an Ivy League University
by Jorge Lira
Class of 2014
Freshman at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Growing up in Santa Fe and going to Capital High school, I had always been around people that I could identify with in terms of my culture and background. I never really had to explain or even wonder why I was the way I am because everyone else was sort of similar. So when I decided to go to school on the East coast, I knew that I would have to be prepared for big changes.

When I moved to Brown University I never really thought about how I, as a minority, would fit in at an institution that has a history of elitism, a school built by white people and for white people. White privilege, racism, classism; these where all things that I knew about but never really fully understood because I grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by people who were more or less like me. Their parents were Mexican, they spoke Spanish, went to public schools and worked jobs to help out in the house. Then all of a sudden I’m going to school with the children of CEO’s and people who have never really interacted with people of color. It was definitely a weird feeling to think that I was in the U.S and still having culture shock. Everything was different about these people; from the way they dressed to the way the talked.  Nobody ever told me how an Ivy League university really works because I was never supposed to make it that far. Regardless of that I tried my hardest to make the best out of the opportunity I had been given. But all the while I still missed my family, my home, my friends and the feeling of just belonging.

I found that joining a group and just really keeping myself busy was a good way to distract myself from feeling sad or stressed. I think I just naturally found myself attracted to Latino culture groups because I was missing home so much.

In the Alianza Latina our goal is to get people on campus to be more aware of several issues that affect Latinos. We have been working on an immigration awareness campaign to teach people on campus about this very important issue that affects millions of people in the U.S. I was surprised to learn that this issue is not as well known here in New England, or at least it’s not as prevalent as it is in New Mexico. Trying to get people aware of your opinions here at Brown can sometimes be easy but other times it can be quite hard. For example you have to be careful in the way you express yourself so as not to offend anyone. Other times you have to compete against other groups.  Activism is definitely something that is huge here at Brown, so as an activist you are always in competition for the attention of the students on campus. Everyone is passionate about something. It’s really great to hear all of these opinions but sometimes it can be quite hard to get your own voice heard because everyone else is also trying to speak.

While I enjoy the activism aspect of this group, I think that what I really enjoy the most is just being around other Latinos. It’s just great to be able to speak Spanish with them, or talk about the foods we miss and share stories of our families. I know that if I ever had a problem they would understand me and support me. The Mexican-American community at Brown is small, but that just makes our group much closer.

When you are at home you tend to take your culture for granted because that is all you know that exists, but then when you move into a totally different world you start to miss it. I decided that I needed to find every possible way to stay in touch with it.That's why I decided to join groups like La Alianza Latina at Brown. I knew that there I would find people who were like-minded and passionate about something that I could understand. It really made Brown feel a little bit more like home.

Going to school at Brown University has been a real life changing experience; it’ so different being in a new part of the country. It can get hard sometimes but overall I have had a great time. I think that Brown is a great school and has a lot to offer, but it is definitely not perfect. The best thing you can do for yourself and others like you is to make it better whether it is through activism or some other way. Anyplace where you feel like you don't belong, you can at least find other people who are like you and together make it better.

As a freshman at NMSU, Anai Pulido decided to apply for a prestigious work-study position with the College of Arts and Science Advising Center. Work-study is a great way to not only earn extra money, but also to make connections and build relationships with faculty and other students. We asked Anai, a current junior at NMSU, to share a bit about her work-study position:

“I remember having an interview with the Director of The College of Arts and Sciences Advising Center, Edward Rodriguez, who terrified me with all the information and how much responsibility I would have if I were to get the work-study job. I needed to have phone etiquette skills to be able to speak with the NMSU faculty, students and parents. I needed to know all the policies and procedures because I would advise my own peers with their careers. I needed to know all the forms and when they needed to be used. I needed to know 26 different majors and what classes they would need to take. On top of that I had to be familiar with the other colleges and their policies in case a student decided to change majors. I also remember him telling me he never hired freshman and all of his work-study were juniors, seniors, and graduate students. This was because of the amount of responsibility this job had. I automatically got discouraged and decided to look for more jobs. Two weeks later I received a call saying I had gotten the job. I was officially the first freshman to be hired for the College of Arts and Science Advising center!


When I first came in to NMSU I had no idea what an advisor was, where to declare my major, what classes to take, anything! I was thrown into this world where I felt that I had no chances of surviving. With this job I learned to survive in college and how to use my resources around me. I learned what to do, when I need to do it and where to do it. This job not only benefited me but also my peers because I learned to be sympathetic. I would see my co-workers lose patience with students because they were upper classmates and expected everyone to possess their same knowledge. Since I had been in a similar situation where I was scared and confused of a new setting, I made sure to help my peers out to the best of my abilities. Two years later I am still working for the Advising Center. We have had so many changes with the center, especially with the employees. Many of the employees I first started with are gone, making me the one who has been here the longest.”


We are proud of Anai for challenging herself to pursue such an important and rigorous position at NMSU, and we know that she has gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and confidence through her role as a student adviser. Congratulations!


Important Summer and Fall Deadlines

Reminder: The Summer and Fall semesters are rapidly approaching. Please see your school's academic calendar for specific deadlines.

UNM Students: Please click the link below for the key deadline dates.

NMSU Students: Please click the link below for key deadline dates.

Copyright © 2015 The Simon Scholars Program, All rights reserved.
College and Alumni Newsletter
Issue 5, April 2015

Our mailing address is:
The Simon Charitable Foundation
524 Don Gaspar Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87505

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