As the first in her family to graduate college, Stephanie Bravo remembers how lost she was when she entered San Jose State University (SJSU). “I didn’t know anybody and I knew nothing about how to navigate the complexities of college life,” says Stephanie. “No one in the family had gone to college, so I was on my own.”
Growing up in San Jose, CA, in the same house her great grandparents purchased back in the 1940s, Stephanie and her younger sister are the 4th generation in a large extended family, many of whom continue to live in the spacious house. Her father, a former IBM manager for 30 years, and her mother, who now works for Ernst & Young, were adamant that she go to a four-year college, but they also expected her to pay her own way, as well as contribute toward family expenses.
While her good grades in high school gained her admission into SJSU, she took general education classes until her junior year, when she finally had to declare a major. Her proactive research at the college career center resulted in her taking a series of career and personality tests, all of which pointed to a career in the medical field. Wanting to further explore the field, Stephanie volunteered in the pediatric/maternity ward of a community hospital. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” she says.
Having to hold down jobs throughout her college years, Stephanie also joined student clubs and teamed up with the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) Mentorship Program, where she met the mentor who would light her path into medical school and beyond: Matthew Goldstein. “Matthew was a huge influence,” enthuses Stephanie. “He built up my confidence, helped me apply to medical schools, and advised me on the classes to take. He was a godsend!”
With her mentor’s help, Stephanie applied to and was accepted at nearly every medical school in California. She chose UC Irvine because of its outstanding medical school and its dual degree program: Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC), which provides Masters coursework, including Chicano/Latino studies. Stephanie was one of 12 students selected into the program. She was also offered a scholarship from HSF.
“Matthew inspired me to become a mentor, too,” she says, “and to co-found StudentMentor.org (www.studentmentor.org), which is the first mentoring service in the country to match college students with professionals from any field in real time. It has been featured on CNN, USA Today and the homepage of Fortune.” Stephanie’s mentoring work has shifted her focus toward combining education with her medical training. While she continues her studies in medical school, she also serves as co-chair of the Latino Medical Student Association Mentorship Program.
“The price tag for higher education can be daunting,” she says. “HSF’s work is so important in helping Hispanic scholars get through college, as well as graduate school, not only with financial assistance, but also with their community outreach and on-campus support programs. I certainly couldn’t be where I am today without HSF.”
During National Mentoring Month in January, Stephanie worked to inspire even more students to take advantage of available mentoring programs, including StudentMentor.org. “Mentoring changed my life,” she says. “I know its power.”