COLLEGE STATION, Texas — First-generation students are automatically at a disadvantage. But one academic advisor is using his personal experience to change his student's lives.
The mentorship victor Castillo provides for his students goes beyond the books. He allows them to feel like he’s their home away from home.
Castillo was born and raised in Bryan, he has a passion to spread his message about education.
“In first-generation low-income families we know our family they bring us here they come here for a better future and better outcome and education,” said Victor Castillo, recruiter and academic advisor.
But overcoming his own obstacles was no walk in the park.
“It’s been a long journey but I'm extremely blessed,” Castillo added. “I just love seeing what I got to experience and they’re kind of like my why’s. Like my friends and family why I do what I do, so I have that big portrait of them.”
He took those obstacles to pioneer a program that allowed him to mentor first-generation students just like him through the science leadership scholars program.
”We’re now in our sixth year of SLS it’s extremely successful. Our retention rate is above 80% percent in the college and above 95% retains to the university, so SLS has been a high achieving program,” said Castillo.
The success of this program led Castillo to assist within the college of science Regents’ program which has also seen much success for the last three years.
“I definitely see myself as my students. I try to be what I wish I would have had, so I see myself in them a lot and I want to make sure they have a better college experience,” Castillo shared.
Giving his students a sense of belonging and guidance, they wouldn’t have otherwise.
”It’s not like our parents went to college they don’t have that experience and having a mentor they’ve gone through that for example Victor. He’s also first-gen, he knows the struggle, and he’s already gone through what I'm going through,” said Lizzett Tapia, Texas A&M Math Major and Regent Scholar recipient.
Now she wants to provide that support for first-generation students that follow her.
“I want to be that peer mentor for the upcoming freshman,” added Tapia.
Castillo looks ahead with a mission to fill his wall of photos with first-generation graduates. He says. “That’s the goal and yeah for sure give me another year or two and it’ll be done,”
According to the spirit, Texas A&M Foundation Magazine the university awards 750 Regents' scholarships to first-generation freshmen each year.