By Elizabeth Cook

SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — North Bay Students Rising Above scholar Rocío Mondragón Reyes has a very special connection to the non-profit with her job as an SRA advisor, serving other young people of color in her community.

On a recent weekday morning, Mondragón Reyes worked on training her new puppy Iggy how to shake paws, walk on a leash and sit. Adopting her new four-legged family member has been just one of the many projects Mondragon Reyes has leaned into since the start of the pandemic.

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The 24-year-old holds down three jobs. In addition to her role as an Students Rising Above advisor, she’s also an administrative associate for the Richmond based non-profit Making Waves Foundation, and a newly minted School Board member for the Roseland School District in her hometown of Santa Rosa.

“I have time to sleep! Still have time to sleep,” Mondragón Reyes joked about her packed schedule. “My full-time roll is a full-time roll. So that is 40 hours a week. My SRA job is about 10-15 hours depending on where students are with college applications. My board position is only a six-hour meeting a month.”

She embraced her busy schedule with a single goal in mind: she wants to serve other young people of color, especially those in the Latino community.

“That to me felt like full circle,” said Mondragón Reyes of her commitment to service. “When I was in high school, I believed that you could change the whole world. And now I realize that I will get very burned out very quickly if I think about the whole world. But if I think about one individual person, that ties very well into my job with SRA where there’s these six students I am set to serve.”

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Since starting to work as an SRA advisor in early 2021, Mondragón Reyes has guided those six lucky students through the college application process. It’s familiar territory for the Georgetown University graduate, who is also the first in her family to attend college.

“I wasn’t born into a circle where that information was given to me. It wasn’t going to be given to me by my parents,” explained Mondragón Reyes. “And so making sure that those resources are not just existent but also accessible, and students know that they exist, that to me is the next big part that not only Georgetown but other universities like it, really need to work on.”

For Mondragón Reyes, part of that work includes making sure her SRA students know that private schools are an option, where key resources are often more readily available and there is flexibility for underserved students.

“Simply because they are first gen or low income doesn’t mean that they are all alike,” said Mondragón Reyes. “They all have different needs. I see my direct role as helping to meet those gaps and helping to open up those conversations.”

Conversations Mondragón Reyes hopes will also lead her students to serve their communities too.

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“I’ve learned in my short life that different people have different perspectives on all different thing,” she said. “And the end of the day, if respect can be given, then we have something to work off of and to continue working on.”

Elizabeth Cook