Angie Cendeja’s high school counselor suggested she forget her dream of going to college. Her family - a large, extended network of migrant workers crammed into a tiny two-bedroom home in Avenal and headed by Cendeja’s grandmother - needed her to stay, the counselor said.
Fortunately, that obstacle only strengthened her determination. She decided she’d become an advisor herself - the kind who would encourage student’s dreams rather than block them.
“That was the way for me to help my family - by setting a good example for my younger siblings and cousins,” she said. “We had a tough life; my grandmother had to borrow money most weeks just to make sure all 10 kids we were fed. But I knew education was what I could rely on, and I clung to that.”
She attended a summer bridge program and met a college counselor, Fernando Beltran, who she says made a great difference in her life.
“I learned a counselor can believe in you,” she said. “I asked the silly questions and learned no question is silly. He was the type of counselor I wanted to be.”
Today, she helps more than 400 students in the
School of Natural Sciencesas they progress toward their dreams.
“I hear a lot of interesting stories, not only on the academic side, but personal stories, financial concerns,” Cendejas said. “I have to know how to handle that by referring students to resources like counseling, tutoring, special programs, clubs and mentors.”
She said the school has developed great support mechanisms for students, including the EXCEL! program for those who are struggling academically, and a study skills and college survival course.
Cendejas keeps an open-door policy and strives to create a welcoming environment for students. She readily shares her story with students.
“I tell them, “I’m here to help you succeed,” she said.
“It’s an awesome feeling to know that all of the hard work I put forth is appreciated,” she said. “I have a special bond with my 20 students in the Class of 2007. They’ve been through a lot these past two years, and I’m happy that I had the chance to inspire and guide them. I look forward to seeing all my students graduate—that’s one of the main reasons why I love what I do!”