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Natalie Shink

Hometown: Redlands, California

Major: Biology

Graduation Date: May 2020

Career Plans: Neuroscientist

In my family, some have not even finished high school. My mom was the first to go to college to receive a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in business administration. My mom, being a first-generation student took 10 years to obtain her bachelor’s degree and is my biggest role model for the successful women she is today. She worked endlessly to give me the opportunities she wished she had growing up; the biggest one being, going to college as a traditional student. I am now the second person in my family to go to college and I hope to be the first to receive my doctoral degree.

I began college as a junior in high school taking classes at my local community college because classes were free and it was exciting getting a feel for what college was like. As I was deciding which university I wanted to attend after high school, I had never heard about CSUCI or thought to even go there. I took a tour with my family and we thought the campus was beautiful and everyone was welcoming. It felt comfortable and I appreciated the small campus. I felt ready for college, but I was unsure about moving away from home to somewhere foreign, but I am grateful for the choice I made. My first year, living in dorms with a random person was one of the best years of my life. On top of this, classes are small at CI, so it ensures us that we get individualized attention from professors. It was a huge transition being on my own but being here made it feasible.

After my first year of college at CI, I began working as a STEM outreach assistant. We work to develop and implement activities at K-12 schools to help foster an interest in students for pursuing STEM as a field of study and career. I help students and parents become more familiar with the following topics: financial aid, housing and transportation, study habits, STEM majors and careers, and differences between high school and college. Following these topics, we share our personal stories of how we got to where we are today, and it brings a sense of connection and motivation. On top of this, we work year-round to put together an annual science carnival with hundreds of activities for the community. Seeing the smiles and excitement of these children is one of the many reasons I continue to do what I do. Through this position, I have met the most amazing people from faculty to students and has led me to be a mentor for my university.

College is a time for navigating your campus, future career paths, social scenes, and an independent life. This transition is rarely easy but being surrounded by the right people will make you feel comfortable and confident in facing situations that arise throughout the semester. As a peer mentor, I want to support students in reaching their fullest potential, during their college journey, by assisting them as we grow together. Reflecting on my journey, college has been a series of highs and lows but the one thing that keeps me going is having people there for you that understand. Sometimes we forget to breathe and see the beauty in college. Ultimately, I want to take part in closing the achievement gap by increasing resilience, persistence, and success in receiving higher education by being a mentor.