Q&A with Campus Connections mentor Alberto Castillo

Image of building with text: "Campus Connections, UCCS, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Alberto Castillo has lived a life full of lessons. Now, he’s learning how to share them with other students.

Castillo is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a student in the College of Education. He’s an aspiring trauma and addiction counselor with dreams of working with the military and veterans population. While his classes are preparing him for his career as a counselor, he’s learning life skills as a mentor in the Campus Connections program.

Castillo shares what it’s like to be a Campus Connections mentor and how it has made an impact on his and his mentee’s life.

What is the importance of the Campus Connections program?

The importance of Campus Connections is for these mentees to have one-on-one mentoring time with students here at UCCS. If these youths are having issues with school, personal life, or whatever it may be. They can talk with their mentor and learn new coping techniques or new techniques on how to overcome a situation that they may be facing. This is also a great time for these students to get caught up on homework if that is what they are wanting to do with their one-on-one time. These students get to come to a place where they can be who they are 100%.

Photo: Alberto Castillo during one of his four tours in the middle east. | Quote: “It was rewarding to be able to be there for him when he needed guidance.” -Alberto Castillo

Why is being a Campus Connections mentor important to you?

Being a Campus Connections mentor is very important to me because of the knowledge that I gained and also the impact that I had in my mentee’s life. I would have to say that my mentee made an even bigger impact on my life. I got to help guide my mentee on a path to success. I noticed that he would come to me for things that I struggled with at that age, it was rewarding to be able to be there for him when he needed guidance.

How has being a mentor made an impact on your school/work life?

Being a mentor has impacted my school and work-life by not taking anything for granted. I became a more helpful person overall. I learned so much while in this program, things that I can take with me in my everyday life. I am more understanding of people and I have more patience with people.

Photo: Alberto Castillo with his two daughters. | Quote: “This was the moment that I knew that this was going to be a great fit.” -Alberto Castillo

Do you have a favorite memory or story you would like to share?

It was our first day and everyone was a bit nervous to meet each other. When I met up with my mentee we started talking. We hit it off right away and everything just clicked. There was so much that we had in common. My mentee was one of the older youths, so he was one of the “cool kids”. His whole attitude would change once we got back around the group. He would shut down and not talk much, he would look at the floor and not engage. Towards the end of the evening, my mentee had opened up completely. He was joking around and participating in all the activities. This was the moment that I knew that this was going to be a great fit and a great semester for him. I was so excited to start the program with my mentee.

What can people expect when they become a Campus Connections mentor?

People can expect to have a life-long memory of being a mentor to these youths. They will leave this course with knowledge that they can use in their own lives and help others around them. I know first-hand that signing up for Campus Connections can be intimidating, but please know that the leadership in this course will always be there for you. There was never a time when I felt stuck or alone in this mentorship. I honestly felt like I had a family behind me, and I cannot wait to go back and participate in this program again. Also, if I could give any advice to new mentors. I would say have an open mind and just listen to what your mentee is saying. These wonderful mentees have so much to say and they look forward to Campus Connections every week. Most of all HAVE FUN!

Campus Connections is currently looking for mentors for the Fall 2021 semester. All majors are welcome to apply before the March 19 deadline. To learn more about this unique program and how to apply, visit their website.

Campus Connections is a wellness and resiliency-oriented service-learning course that pairs UCCS students and youth from the community in mentor-mentee relationships. Youth are referred through our El Paso County Community partners and are matched with a UCCS student who provides one-on-one therapeutic mentoring throughout the semester.