Back-to-School Advice From a Green Dot Alum


By Sandra Estrada, Ánimo Leadership Alumnus

Sandra Estrada is heading into her junior year at the University of California Los Angeles, where she is majoring in Spanish. Sandra is a Green Dot University Mentor for a cohort of recent Green Dot graduates attending UCLA. As a mentor, she meets with students regularly, and helps shepherd them through university processes and campus life. In this post, she shares her road to college and provides current Green Dot students with words of advice for the upcoming school year.

During my first year at UCLA, I remember feeling like I didn’t belong. I was overwhelmed with emotions, and it was only orientation. I remember texting my Ánimo Leadership English teacher and mentor, Ms.Stine, and her telling me, ‘You belong at UCLA. You went through the process and they chose you.’ Just hearing the words ‘you can do it’ from someone I knew made me feel so powerful.

That experience inspired me to become a University Mentor. As a mentor, I meet regularly with Green Dot students who are now freshmen to talk about anything they might need help with on campus. Most of all, when they’re doubting themselves, I’m someone that can remind them that they are powerful and that they can do it.

“When they’re doubting themselves, I’m someone that can remind them that they are powerful and that they can do it.”

I spent this past summer directing a children’s camp by the beach, and my time with the children always inspires me to think about what I was like at their age. I started thinking about what messages inspired me, and discouraged me, and what I hoped to hear from peers and mentors.

So as I soak in the last rays of the summer sun, I’d like to take a moment to speak to current Green Dot students. Like them, I’m saying goodbye to summer break and returning to school in a few weeks.

Dear Green Dot Students

While it’s easy to let the summer lull you into full-time relaxation mode, I urge you to start the year with a “go get it” mindset. Regardless of what your situation is like, get it done. Giving up is not an option, because you are capable of greatness. So take a moment to shake off the baggage of the last school year and remember it’s not where you start, but it’s what you achieve. Only you can determine that destination.

Growing up, every adult in my life told me how important education is, but I’ve learned it’s so much more than that.Your education is priceless, it is something no one will ever be able to take away from you.

I know firsthand that this journey isn’t always easy–things won’t always go the way you had hoped, or sometimes life will feel too hard–but you must get it done, because you can. At the end of the day you’re going to be so proud of yourself. You will have defied the odds, surprised yourself and grown into a better version of yourself.

Summer Melt

When things get hard, and you doubt yourself, remember that you are more capable than you know, and within you is the potential to do any and everything you put your mind to.

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