My only hope is that I can give back all that I was so graciously given

“My only hope is that I can give back all that I was so graciously given.”

I saw this on a poster when I was in my sophomore year of college, and they really stuck with me. I carried those words with me as I graduated from college and moved back home to San Antonio. I knew that I wanted to work in something that would help me give back in some way. As I looked around at different non-profits I found that there was an opening at cafécollege. I remembered this org because I had come as a student in high school, and I had also graduated from Burbank which is one of the partner high schools with the San Antonio Education Partnership.

Advising at cafécollege was an amazing experience. I learned so much about college access, and supporting students. I left for a while to try out admissions and recruiting- but I missed being able to work more directly with my students. So when I found that there was another opportunity to jump back to SAEP as an advisor with high school services, I was elated.

You see, I wasn’t always a good student. I didn’t care about my classes, always forgot to turn in work, and at times was just straight up disrespectful to my teachers.

But one day, a teacher took me aside to ask why I wasn’t giving any effort, and when I didn’t have an answer for him he gave me some words that changed my life, “I see a lot of potential in you, but you won’t be able to do anything with it unless you see it in yourself.”

This teacher got no benefit for telling me this. In fact, with my behavior and attitude in class, I’m surprised he did. But here was someone, who for no other reason than besides being genuinely invested in his student, believed in me. That conversation changed everything for me: I started to believe in myself too.

As I progressed through my high school years I started working more with others: my AVID teacher, the College Advising Corp and SAEP Advisors, Project Stay, and GEAR Up and over and over I found the same encouragement, support, and understanding. It was through all of our efforts, that I was able to go to and through college.

That is why my role as an SAEP Advisor is so meaningful to me. I truly believe that I am working to give back all that I was given. I work to meet students where they are, and help them to get where they want to go. The patience, understanding, and guidance that was given to me, I can now pass on to others. Whether it be as simple as reminding a student to check their college portals, or as exciting as sitting with a student as they submit their first application, I hope that my work serves not only as thanks to those who accompanied me on my journey, but also my belief and pride in my students as they continue on theirs.


Fatima Montez

Tier 2, College Access and Success Advisor-Road to Success and Alumni of SAEP Scholarship