My EOP counselor believed in me when others didn't. Most important, she helped me believe in myself."

 Yazmin doroteo, senior, CSU San Marcos

"Being a first-generation Xicana [a chosen identity of a Mexican-American] college student was daunting. To my single mother and other people in my community, I would be the first to walk along a challenging path full of obstacles.

I had flunked fourth grade, and from then on I was viewed as a struggling student. Through my imperfect experiences in high school that followed, some of my teachers and my high school counselor worried I wouldn't get very far in higher education.

This caused my mother to feel that the educational system would fail me once again. Though I showed improvement in my academics, I was constantly labeled and had to take math remedial classes, making me feel less competent. Even though I took AP courses, I was still seen as on a lower level than my peers.

Luckily, I was part of a program in high school called Palomar College Upward Bound. In my senior year, the Upward Bound coordinator, Mrs. Nellie Martinez, referred me to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a college program that supports historically underrepresented, financially disadvantaged and/or first-generation students.

She planted the seed in me to believe in myself and pursue college.

When I was applying to college, my mother was by my side, but she wasn't able to assist me in many aspects since she had never experienced it herself. So I actively sought help from Mrs. Martinez on my college applications.

California State University San Marcos accepted me; right away the EOP counselors contacted me to help me transition into college. My mother went with me to meet one of the counselors before I graduated high school.

After the meeting, my mother was relieved, because she saw that the program was going to open doors for me. Not only would they provide me with academic help, they would also help me with my personal and professional development throughout college.

From that day forward, my EOP counselor, Ms. Norma Larios, kept in constant contact with me; she helped me with everything from even before I began college—until now. She also became my boss.

I fell in love with EOP and its mission, so I decided to work for them. My EOP counselor even helped me apply for scholarships, and recently I was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to help fund my education.

I would never have thought that a group of strangers would become my second family. EOP is a program that truly believes in students and invests their time and efforts to help students succeed.

My EOP family has seen me at my highest and lowest points. I constantly reflect on how I came out of my lows to remind myself that I am intelligent and resilient. EOP contributed greatly to my college success; my counselor believed in me when others didn't and, most important, she helped me believe in myself.

In spring 2017, I will be graduating with a double major in criminology and justice studies and sociology, with a concentration in children, youth and families. This great accomplishment is not only for me, but also for my family and community. Many students of color from my community are less likely to attend college because they don't have support from their families or even society.

They are often neglected by the educational system and, as a result, lose confidence in themselves. That was the same for me.

But my outlook on education and myself drastically changed when I got into CSU San Marcos. The transition from high school to college was a major change for me and my family, but I fought through it with the help of EOP.

I want to 'be the change' in my community, to eliminate the negative stereotypes that plague our people, and to contribute to creating a higher standard for my peers and those coming after me.

I am a successful, first-generation college student, and I will continue to encourage others to pursue higher education—not just to prove something to those individuals that doubted them, but more important, to accomplish their own life goals.

Si se puede! Yes, you can! Don't ever forget that."