For first-generation student Cristian Mendoza, a Compton College student studying chemistry, physics, mathematics and automotive collision repair and paint, the camp enabled him to get out of his comfort zone.

Mendoza, who aspires to transfer to a university and study forensic science, said he applied for the program not only to try new things, but also to help him build a successful future where he can support his family.

“Growing up, we were of low income,” Mendoza said. “My brother and I grew up struggling every now and then, we grew up with issues my sister has never met. We’re thankful for that. … That’s something that we want to provide. Much like we’re providing for our sister, I want to provide for the future of not only my children, but their children’s children, and so on.”

Although he’s been able to pursue many of his interests at Compton College, through SummerUp, Mendoza was exposed to new ideas and subject matter he had never encountered previously.

“These were courses that I wouldn’t have thought of taking. … My favorite class was the forensic science class,” Mendoza said. “I liked the DNA gathering aspect of it and being able to know how to record the data, how to find what you’re looking for, how to piece things together and being able to analyze it thoroughly while working together with my peers.”

For the extent of the camp, participants dined and stayed on campus. By sharing meals and rooming together, the students formed new friendships and found a sense of camaraderie with their peers.

Victoria Torres, a first-generation student who studies engineering at Compton College, said her favorite part of the experience was living on campus.

“In the dorm, I was able to meet new friends and bond with women who have the same goals as me, which is to continue my education,” Torres said. “Education is power. And power can help change the world for others who are not as fortunate as we are.”

On the weekend, participants visited northern Arizona, where they got to see the geology they studied firsthand at the Grand Canyon and experience the history of Arizona by riding the Verde Canyon Railroad.

The camp concluded with a final presentation where students shared what they learned from the experience. 

Moving forward, those involved look forward to continuing this partnership and expanding it to serve even more students.

“New College is excited to continue working with Compton College to prepare more than 30 students to participate in SummerUp next year,” Starr said. “We have learned so much from this first group of students, and it was awesome seeing them grow over the course of one week. We can’t wait to create even more meaningful experiences for our students in the years to come.”

Emily Balli

Multimedia specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences