Volunteer profile: Shawn Cervantes

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Alumni volunteer Shawn Cervantes says, "I encourage anyone who has a desire to serve to find an area that they are passionate about and simply ask the question, "What can I do for you?" As a result of my posing that question over three years ago, I have found a fulfillment in life that I was not expecting to find."

Oakes '13, psychology

Title: Counselor

Why do you volunteer with UC Santa Cruz?

I volunteer for UC Santa Cruz because I found an opportunity to continue to utilize my skills as a mother and nurture young college students.

Prior to transferring to UC Santa Cruz in 2011, I was made aware of the Smith Renaissance Society, a cross-generational community within the university that provides financial, academic, and social support to current students. Typically, Smith Renaissance Society students have been orphaned, in foster care, homeless, or have had extreme adverse childhood experiences that have left them without traditional parental support.

Upon my arrival to campus, I began to mentor my first student. Since that time, I have had the privilege of mentoring many other Smith Society students. I eventually became a member of the Smith Renaissance Society's board, and most recently I became the board president. What has been most rewarding about volunteering with the Smith Renaissance Society is that I have been able to share a mother's love with a group of individuals who have not always known what it was like to be loved by a mother. In exchange, they have loved me back unconditionally. It has truly been an emotionally rewarding experience. I have been able to support some of these students through graduation, getting their careers started, and have even been there for the birth of a few children. Being a member of Smith Renaissance Society is more like being a member of a large family.

What types of things do you do as a Slug volunteer?

Over the years, I have been able to mentor students, have them in my home for dinners and birthday parties, provide academic assistance, friendship, emotional support, and anything else they need to make their college experience at UC Santa Cruz a pleasant one. Thanks to the generous hearts of other UC Santa Cruz alumni and community members, we are also able to offer our students financial assistance in the form of scholarships as well. It is truly a unique and amazing community.

What has been the most rewarding thing about volunteering with your alma mater?

Serving the Smith Renaissance Society has provided me with so many wonderful memories. Throughout the academic year we have so many fun activities, from Music Day and College Camp where we outreach to local foster youth and encourage them to see college as an achievable goal, to our annual invitation to the chancellor's reception at University House. Additionally, I have formed lifelong relationships with some incredibly amazing people that I would not have had the pleasure of meeting had it not been for my desire to volunteer with this community.

Words of advice for those thinking of volunteering with UC Santa Cruz?

I encourage anyone who has a desire to serve to find an area that they are passionate about and simply ask the question, "What can I do for you?" It really is that simple. As a result of my posing that question over three years ago, I have found a fulfillment in life that I was not expecting to find.