If it weren’t for Amanda Gallardo, Steffan Barahona’s road to becoming the first in his family to attend college in the United States might have been much bumpier. As it was, during his senior year of high school in Arlington, Virginia, Barahona felt completely overwhelmed by the application process.
Gallardo — a Communities in Schools site coordinator and a first-generation college student herself — had faced similar challenges. She’d been there.
“I didn’t have anybody guide me through that process of getting through high school and going to college,” she says. “I wanted to be that for somebody.”
Gallardo took on a role that every young person needs in their lives: a caring mentor. She offered both practical and moral support, and as his senior year progressed, Barahona started coming into Gallardo’s office for more than academic advice. They would talk when his home life was stressful, his classwork was too much, or he had challenges with friends at school.