Welcome to CLAS Connections, a minicast that spends a heartfelt five minutes with people from UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In each case, their special connection has had a profound and lasting impact on their lives.
Today we speak with alumna Nicole Sanclemente and student Geraldine Uribe. They met through the CLAS Women’s Leadership Collective, a program that pairs undergraduate women with alumni mentors. They say their shared background as first-generation Latinas led to a profound symbiotic connection that changed both of their lives. Here’s Geraldine and Nicole.
Nicole: I remember the first time we met over Zoom. It’s that weird like feeling where you’re just like, oh, I’m gonna love this person. I knew that it was just gonna become a sisterhood rather than just like this mentor mentee relationship.
Geraldine: Finally being able to see you in person. Being in the presence of somebody that you look up to is just really nice. And it’s crazy that she not only got someone that was able to be kind of what I want to do in my future, but someone that actually looks like me.
Nicole: How have I helped you as a first generation student, as a Latina?
Geraldine: Well, you helped me a lot, actually. You helped me feel more comfortable in doing what I wanted to do in the future.
When I met you, I was working on the campaign at the time and I was starting to fall in love with it, but a part of me didn’t want to fall in love with it a hundred percent. Because I was like, is this fulfilling enough for myself and my family?
When you’re a first generation student, you wanna be successful and you want to graduate college. But you also wanna think about stability for your family, and stability comes with income. So you think about things like lawyer, engineer, doctor, those are difficult things to do. And also too, they’re not what everybody wants to do.
But knowing someone like you working for a nonprofit and being involved in policy, it just made me realize, no, that is successful, that you can achieve so much with that. I’m able to revert back to my mom and just be like, no, there are people who look just like me, who are just like me as first generation, doing all that stuff.
Now when a lot of first generation students come into First Gen Society they tell me, oh, I’m a chem major, but I don’t really wanna do that. I wanna be English. I try to push them to do that what they want, because it’s hard and I get that it’s hard, but you were able to show me that that’s it’s okay.
Nicole: My family, we immigrated from Colombia. Since I was born here, when going back to Colombia and being like, oh, you’re the American. But then here you’re seen as the Colombian, you’re seen as everything but American, right?
Nicole: That identity crisis always followed me and I’ve tried to really leave that behind, and try to grow from it. When I came into college, I was working the D.P. Dough job.
Geraldine: D.P. Dough!
Nicole: So sometimes I’d go from D.P. Dough, 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. So I would have to drive all over campus delivering these calzones. And when you’re getting home, 4:30, you’re getting into bed, and then waking up for an 8:30 a.m. class.
Geraldine: That’s a lot.
Nicole: That’s not sustainable. At the same time I was working at D.P. Dough. I was board clerking in the town of Marlborough, in the town of Hebron; I was working for the yearbook at the time, Nutmeg Publishing. And so, trying to balance those things is very difficult.
So yeah, academic pro came along for me and I came to the realization that I’m not living a sustainable life right now and I’m not happy. So what do I have to change? And what I found out was that I do have this love of policy, because I really want to help people.
I want to make transformative change happen, for more people that look like us, right? More black and brown communities.
Geraldine: So I nominated Nicole for the mentor award because you were able to listen. And take new information as like a challenge in: How am I going to help my mentee?
To be able to say to yourself, ‘I wanna be a mentor towards someone, and help those people just like me out.’ I think that’s just so inspiring. Even now, not even within the program, you are still my mentor and you’re still family.
Nicole: Geraldine’s being very, very humble as well. In order for a mentor to truly be successful, they have to have great mentees.
It’s what makes the journey and the connection worthwhile, because you really were there to learn.
I’m 25. At the time that we met, I was 23 or 24. I think I wouldn’t have been as receptive to someone so close to my age coming in and being like, oh, let’s talk about life. Let’s talk about what you’re going through. How can I be helpful? I feel like at that age I was just like, oh, I can do this on my own. I felt like I had to do everything on my own. I felt like I, I couldn’t reach out. So I learn a lot from you.
And You’re gonna be there in monumental times in my life, and I know I’ll be there in monumental times in yours. You’ll be there at my wedding. When my kids are born, you’ll be there. At my baby shower.
Geraldine: Everything! I also just wanted to say thank you for changing my life. Being in my life. And shout out to Women’s Leadership Collective. Had to put that in there.
Nicole: Yeah, shout out to CLAS. You’re doing a phenomenal job. I hope this cohort continues forever and ever.
Nicole: Because this is what comes out of it. This is really what comes out of it.
Geraldine: I love you.
Nicole: I love you too.