Cindy Castillo, a former director of financial aid at De Anza College, has been a mentor to Alta Vista High School student Jocelyn Trujillo for the past two years, through Mentor Tutor Connection.
Previously called Partners for New Generations, Mentor Tutor Connection is a nonprofit organization that has provided Mountain View and Los Altos youth with tutoring and mentoring programs since its founding in 1995 by the Los Altos Rotary Club.
When Castillo and Trujillo were paired together in 2012, Trujillo had recently enrolled at Alta Vista. After moving from Mexico, where she lived with her grandmother for most of her life, Trujillo moved in with her brother in East Palo Alto, where they share a rented room.
"My brother is like my mom and dad at the same time. It was hard. I had to make up almost two years of school. It was my senior year. Honestly, I did feel like giving up. But Cindy said, 'You know if I didn't think you could do it, I wouldn't be here pushing you,'" said Trujillo.
Attending classes at Alta Vista and working a full-time job at Nob Hill Foods is a lot of responsibility, yet Trujillo said she knows her work will pay off.
"While I am working, I am thinking that I am going to need the money while in college. I have known many people who have dropped out but I want to finish. I want to go to college," said Trujillo.
The organization provides volunteer mentors at Mountain View, Los Altos and Alta Vista high schools in the Mountain View-Los Altos district. Mentors are expected to meet with students weekly for the duration of the year, but Castillo and Trujillo have developed an especially close bond.
"The key ingredient is to have a positive adult outside of your family who cares about you," Castillo said.
They have studied for Trujillo's driver's test together and gone on field trips to Half Moon Bay and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Trujillo occasionally texts Castillo when she needs a ride to work.
"I think she knows that I've got her back. Jocelyn has had to grow up quickly at a young age. I really admire that she is as sweet and hard-working as she is," said Castillo.
Mentor Tutor Connection has enabled the pair, as well as many others, to form a relationship that will continue to impact the lives of both the mentors and the mentees for years to come. That's one of the reasons Mentor Tutor Connections is one of the local nonprofits serving the Mountain View community that benefit from donations to the Voice's annual Holiday Fund.
Trujillo said she plans to graduate from Alta Vista sometime this winter, with Castillo by her side, and then attend De Anza Community College.
"I want to be a lawyer. I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little girl. People tell me it's a lot of school but I know I can do it. I want to work on immigration and make a change," she said.