When Maribel Castanon first received her acceptance letter to Chapman University in the spring of 2016, it was not at the top of her list. Thinking back, she reflects, “I was not so excited because Chapman was not my first choice, [but] I have to agree with what many people have told me in the past, ‘Your college experience is what you make of it.’” Eight months after the initial acceptance and with a great start to the school year, she has found a new home at Chapman.

Maribel was a dedicated volunteer with Breakthrough SJC, where she served as a middle school tutor in 2012 and as a 7th grade science teaching fellow for two consecutive summers. While excelling in the International Baccalaureate program at Capistrano Valley High School, she devoted her time to supporting Breakthrough middle school students, acting as a peer minister, and helping her family’s business. A true example of a first-generation student who is studious and committed to giving back, Maribel has tapped into her strengths to thrive in college.

Reflecting on her first two months in college, Maribel remarks that “I have immersed myself into college and that has definitely made all the difference . . . take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you.” She is engaged with the Chapman community in many ways: by joining the University Program Board, a student-group dedicated to organizing campus events; pledging to Kappa Alpha Pi, a pre-law co-ed fraternity; and registering people to vote for the Office of Student Engagement in the Civic Engagement subdivision. Though the pressures of living away from family, being a campus leader, and succeeding in the classroom can be overwhelming, she fights through it with resolve, describing that “I am under a lot of pressure, not that everyone else may not feel the same way, but as a first generation student . . .  I don’t want to let my parents down or myself down . . . I feel like I especially have to prove that I deserve to be here.”

Breakthrough SJC is extremely proud of Maribel, and she leaves us with one final piece of advice: “I want students to know that college, but most importantly, education is such a valuable thing that you can have, gaining knowledge is what I have appreciated most about college.”