This December, we said goodbye to four mentors who can no longer work for Achieve Hartford because they’ll be graduating from their community college, taking on an internship or a full-time job. We hate to lose them but we celebrate their progress toward their career goals.

Mentor Julie Callejas, of East Hartford, has transferred to Charter Oak State College to earn her bachelor’s in organizational leadership and, eventually, a master’s. She is also becoming the interim executive director of End Hunger Connecticut, where she served on the board and stepped in to help out during a transitional period. Callejas already had an associate degree in social work and ran two businesses when she began working on a second degree at Manchester Community College to become a disability specialist.

We rarely have mentors as experienced as Julie, but with so many shared experiences with the freshmen she supported, she was always able to relate and add value. As a first-generation immigrant herself, she knew how hard it was to navigate the United States’ college system, especially financial aid, she says.

She tried to teach her mentees that in college, the teachers and staff won’t help them unless asked. “With the mentoring program, you’re teaching them, ‘If you’re struggling in this area, this is how you’re going to advocate for yourself and get what you need.’ ”

Another mentor, Stefan Hall, of Windsor, will be doing an internship at the accounting firm Fiondella, Milone & LaSaracina in Glastonbury while also finishing his final semester at MCC.  After graduating in May with an associate degree in accounting and business administration, he plans to transfer next fall to UConn as a junior in the accounting program.

He’s been mentoring students for Achieve Hartford since June of 2020 and has found the job both challenging and rewarding. “Some students will probably think a mentor is just a spammer or scammer or an automated messaging system no matter how much we mix it up and change how we approach them.” This made the most difficult part of the job breaking through their suspicion and getting them to connect, he says.

The most rewarding part, was being able to help students. “I know firsthand how navigating college can be a bit of a maze at first, even without the coursework that comes with it,” he says. “It is a great feeling to help and to see students successfully navigate college, access the myriad of opportunities and supports it offers and then to see them not only do well, but be excited to continue their journey into the next semester and beyond.”

Mentor Isis Murillo Bravo, whose three jobs totaled full-time work while attending MCC, will be working 40 hours a week in two jobs instead. She’ll be working for MCC and 30 hours a week working with students for GEAR UP CT at East Hartford High School, in a job that’s similar to her role as a mentor. The East Hartford resident, who moved here from Peru when she was 13, is scheduled to earn her associate degree this spring and is awaiting responses to her college transfer applications before deciding where to complete her bachelor’s degree. We’re also losing Reanna O’Bryan, who graduates from Capital Community College in January and has transferred to Goodwin University to continue her nursing education. (See Mentee Becomes Mentor)