From Think Together Student to Site Program Manager: The Path Continues to Illuminate

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Cultivating a safe and nurturing space is always key to making people feel seen and understood. For Think Together Site Program Manager Juliana, that place was and continues to be Think Together.

She began her journey with Think Together in the third grade, when her parents noticed Juliana needed extra support in her schoolwork due to a significant shift at home that was deeply affecting her. Juliana’s parents first language is Spanish, so it was difficult for them to provide her with the full support she needed to excel in school and Think Together became the best option for them.

It was then that Juliana forged a very special relationship with Corinna Mendoza, a Think Together Program Leader at her elementary school. After a heartfelt conversation with Corinna on Juliana’s first day in program, Juliana felt an instant change in herself.

“When I started, I gave all my teachers and program leaders a hard time. Once Ms. Mendoza had that one-on-one conversation with me, I felt seen, I felt heard,” Juliana said. “She saw my potential and she saw that I could do great things. So, the following day I had a whole 180. I wanted to show her that what she saw in me is not going to be in vain.”

From that point on, Juliana fell in love with the Think Together program and strived to make her Program Leader Corinna proud. Most days, Juliana would beg her mom not to pick her up until she was the very last student left in the afterschool program because she wanted to make the most of her time there.

As Juliana moved on to middle school, so did Corinna who was promoted to a site program manager role at Think Together and coincidently placed at the middle school Juliana attended! With the continued support of Corinna, it allowed Juliana’s academic journey to flourish.

“She went to my middle school promotion and my college graduation. She’s one of the reasons why I took the path to go to college. As a first-generation Mexican American, it’s a big accomplishment for me and my family. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today, which is why I hold Think Together so dear.”

Juliana discovered many new aspects of herself during her time with Think Together as a student. She found her love for sports and enjoyed learning about healthy living.

After leaving the program as a student, Juliana became a tutor within Think Together, then a program leader. As a program leader, she received Think Together’s Changing the Odds award, a great accomplishment within the organization that recognizes Think Together staff who go above and beyond. Juliana is now a site program manager at a school site in Think Together’s Santa Fe Springs region.

Many of her colleagues, especially Sam, who’s one of the program leaders at the site Juliana manages, are grateful to have such a supportive leader like Juliana who has both the students’ and staff’s best interest at heart.

“Juliana has given me room to explore the educational aspect of expanding students’ minds. She was the biggest supporter when it came down to the learning curve as a new program leader,” Sam shared.

Juliana only hopes to grow from where she is now. She strives to remain a line of support for the students she guides towards their academic success.

“I encourage my students to continue school and to do great things because I know they are capable of it. I see a lot of me in them and a lot of those students that are challenging,” Juliana said. “I hope that I’m able to give them that safe space in Think Together and encourage them just the way my program leader did.”