Today’s volunteer in the spotlight is Juana Sandoval! Juana is YA! Coach St. Paul since 2016. “Juana has gone above and beyond as a YA! mentor. She was matched with her first mentee for three years and was a huge support as she graduated and began college. Juana took her on numerous college visits in and out of state. She accompanied the family on a train ride across Wisconsin to visit Marquette University and helped them navigate the journey. She returned for orientation with her mentee to ensure she did not miss such an important part of the transition to college. She has become such a strong resource and support for her mentee, her mentee’s sister who is also in college, and for the whole family. She not only returned to YA! this year to support another senior through college applications but continues to mentor and support her previous student as well! Juana has also been a volunteer at other CLUES events and has built bridges between CLUES and SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers). She is humble as she receives words of thanks saying, “I’m just trying to be who I needed when I was younger.” Juana, these young ladies have been lucky to have you in their corner!” said her supervisor, Tanya Zwald.
Here’s what Juana had to say about what CLUES means to her: “CLUES has given me the opportunity to connect with Latinx youth, and to be a role model as a Latina engineer. It was one of the first organizations I heard about when I moved to Minneapolis. I am always happy to recommend CLUES as a resource because CLUES offers so many different programs. The CLUES staff I have met have been committed to supporting the community and finding ways for volunteers to participate that are authentic and real. CLUES means being a part of a community and finding ways to support each other.”
The impact of Juana’s service: This is my 4th school year being a mentor in the CLUES YA! program. Being a mentor has had an unexpected impact on me. Spending time with high school students helps remind me of the drive they have to improve the world and gives me a lot of hope for the future. There is a lot of focus on applying to college and navigating that process. But there’s also a lot of fun activities and discussion about more personal growth topics. I like answering questions – even for small things I take for granted now – like how to dress for a job interview. It all comes down to the cliche- but it’s so true: Be the person you needed when you were younger. I’ve kept in touch with my first mentee, she is now in college! I like that the YA! program allows high school students to see themselves (with the mentors but also with the college students who come back to help) and to know that they don’t need to try to navigate the college process on their own. Students learn that it’s OK to reach out for help, you don’t have to have all the answers, and that the CLUES community is rooting for them!
I highly recommend the YA program to other potential mentors. Seriously, I give it 5 stars! Because CLUES has other programs and staff, if your mentee or their family has more questions than you can answer, they are a great resource. The CLUES staff definitely setup the mentors for success in YA, especially following up on any issues and responding to questions quickly. (Shout out to Tanya!) If you’re like me, you will end up learning about yourself in the process!
Thank you to Juana and all our volunteers for your incredible service! We are lucky to have you as a mentor!