For Robert Mendoza, a first-generation college student working on his master’s degree in kinesiology, Cal State Fullerton’s Strengthening Opportunities, Access and Resources (SOAR) program has provided him opportunities that he never thought were possible.
Created in 2014, the federally funded program offers a range of opportunities for all students, including advising, academic resources, professional development and networking opportunities, plus the SOARing Graduate Student Association. It also offers scholarships to help SOAR students.
“We have focused on developing community groups among the students, connections that will help them through their master’s programs, as well as support programs to help them do well,” says Katherine Powers, director of graduate studies and SOAR director. “SOAR’s goal is to increase the number of Hispanic students who enroll in and achieve a graduate degree at Cal State Fullerton.”
Powers stresses that while many of their programs are open to all students, it is especially important for those who come from underprivileged and underrepresented groups.
“SOAR is a group of very dedicated faculty and staff members who have taken on the responsibility to help Latino students succeed at the graduate school level,” explains Mendoza, who is focusing on sport psychology. “I’ve attended all the programs because they are so beneficial — for networking and learning from others.”
Mendoza is one of the program’s Elevar Scholars, receiving a $2,000 scholarship in the spring. The scholarship made it possible for him to travel this summer to Greece.
“It is something that I’ll never forget,” he says. “It is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done … to learn firsthand different cultures — what you can only imagine in class.”
Mendoza is determined to share such experiences with others, as he did before the fall semester began, as a panelist during Graduate Student Orientation. “I was glad to share, to provide advice to others that I had received … to give back to the program that has helped me.”
More information about the program is available online.