Pitzer Spotlights

2004-2005 Spotlight Archives

Martha Figueroa '05, Mentor Extraordinaire

Martha FigueroaMartha Figueroa's college search experience motivated her to start her own mentoring program by visiting her old high school, Montclair High School in Montclair, California. She started meeting with classes while she was a sophomore at Pitzer, giving advice on how to get in to college.

“I was really shocked at the amount of questions they had for me from the first day. ‘Am I too late?’ or ‘Can I still take the SAT?’ ” Figueroa continues, “Other kids say that they are just going to go to a trade school. When I ask them why, they say ‘Well, I can’t get into college’.”

What she often finds out is that “most of them are actually fine to get into college. They just didn’t know.” She explains, “There are kids who receive this information, but they are in the Advanced Placement or Upward Bound classes. The regular students don’t hear this stuff.”

Figueroa now visits Chaffey High School in Ontario, California, as well as Monclair High School. The number of classes she visits has also expanded.

“I started off with seniors, but now I see classes of freshman as well because I think that they should know the information to prepare.”

“I am really amazed at the questions even freshmen ask,” she says. “One asked me what the most difficult thing was that I’ve had to do in college. I told them that it was adjusting to the environment and doing things alone.” As the seventh of eleven children, Figueroa is very close to her family. She is the first in her family ever to go to college, and is now helping one of her sisters apply to college.

Figueroa received help from her teachers to fill out her college applications and they made sure she knew all the deadlines. The teachers know all the information, but they want their kids to hear the information from a college student they can relate to.

“Usually the kids feel more comfortable asking someone that has been there.” Generally the kids are very receptive to her. However, Figueroa says that, “Sometimes I’ll get someone who is like ‘what do you know?’ But once we start talking, it always ends up good.”

Figueroa is making efforts to cement her program so that Pitzer students will continue to visit the high schools after she graduates.

“Right now it’s just me doing it, but I’m creating a simple handbook with little steps for the students to follow. Nothing big or thick that they might not want to keep up with.” Figueroa is also hoping to train a few other people before she graduates.

Figueroa is a Spanish major and hopes to be a high school teacher one day, among other things.

“I definitely want to teach in this area for a while, but my goal is to eventually go to the Los Angeles School District and one day work for the Board of Education. That is my main goal- to implement change.” Figueroa would also like to learn Vietnamese so that she can help the large number of Vietnamese children in the area. “I want to be able to help all different children, not only Spanish/English speakers.”

When asked how the program is working, Figueroa says that she hopes it is working, but “it can be hard to tell.”

So what keeps her motivated to visit these schools each Friday on her spare time?

“When I’m done, there is always a group that asks to stay to talk more and that motivates me,” she says. “I really also appreciate when someone who is shy steps out of their comfort zone to ask questions or stick around. That really motivates me. When they show so much interest. That keeps me going.”

—Catherine Okereke, ’00
Office of Public Relation