It takes a village to help student organizations soar

By Mayeena Ulkarim

The Student Organization Advising and Resources (SOAR) advising office is home to 219 student organizations. Student organizations cover topics ranging from identity and cultural background, politics, dance organizations, Greek life, academic preparation, pre-med programs, entrepreneurship, and so much more! 

SOAR Peer Advisors Gear Up

The dedicated peer advisors working at SOAR have all had first-hand experience in leadership roles within one or more student organizations at UC Santa Cruz. 

soar-pa-image-200x-200For example, Paola Garcia, a fifth-year Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) and Film double major, has been a SOAR peer advisor now for three years. They have been involved in student organizations and served in leadership roles, however, since their very first year at UC Santa Cruz. 

Garcia first served as treasurer for Hermanos Unidos and is now the co-advisor. Garcia is also involved with Los Mejicas, a folkloric dance group, where they serve as the events and outreach coordinator. Garcia is also a former co-director.

“Our motto,” notes Garcia of SOAR, “is student agency.” 

“We want to make sure students are getting the guidance they need to create whatever they want, have a voice, and get involved,” Garcia said in a recent interview.

Student organizations visit the SOAR office on a daily basis and SOAR peer advisors are equipped to respond and provide support for virtually anything. 

“Every single org that I meet with,” notes Garcia, “has to go through the same process of coordinating events and utilizing the SOAR office resources.” 

soar-peer-advisor-2-200x150.jpegBlen Tewodros is majoring in Business Management Economics and is pursuing a minor in Technology Information Management. Tewodros also serves as the business assistant at SOAR as well as the operations coordinator. During their sophomore year, Tewodros was the co-chair of the African Student Union and became a resident assistant on campus.

In their experience, Tewodros realized the importance of supporting other students. Working at the SOAR office, says Tewodros, “is inspiring because I am interacting with student leaders daily. They are coming in with all these questions and I am able to answer them in a way that will better their organization.” 

“It doesn’t feel like I am doing work but instead, doing what I love,” says Tewodros, as they reflect on their role at SOAR.

Everything Tewodros has been involved with has been rewarding and taught them skills. They particularly note honing of time management, project management, events planning, and using online resources such as Google calendar as skills they have gained. 

Moving Full Circle

For Wendy Siguenza, working at SOAR was a given. They started working at SOAR as an operations coordinator and later as a business assistant. Siguenza was also involved with Greek organization, Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated, and interned for the Ethnic Resource Centers. Siguenza graduated in June 2019 with a major in Sociology and a minor in History. Now Siguenza is the SOAR fiscal assistant and is the youngest member of the SOAR team. 

SOAR “provided for me when I was drowning and needed motivation. That’s why I came back. I want to provide that same space for students,” said Siguenza. SOAR is a department that “really cares about student opinion.” Now as a full-time staff member, Siguenza feels like their opinion and voice really matter. 

soar-advisor-team-200x200.jpegSOAR is a part of a larger organization, SOMeCA (SOAR, Student Media, Cultural Arts and Diversity). Many of the current staff also started their journey on campus as an undergraduate student.

“We graduate from SOMeCA, before we graduate from UCSC,” jokes Katherine Canales, associate director. “This is what has helped us grow into who we are today.” This passion also stems from a belief in transformational action and a deep commitment to building community. 

Canales notes of her mentor, SOMeCA director, Sayo Fujioka. “Sayo sees amazingness in all of us. I have been here for nine years and not once have I felt that I was gonna be told what to do.” Instead, there is an emphasis on listening to everyone’s ideas around the room and working together holistically.

Cory Fong started working at SOAR in August 2015. They are excited when they get to see how the same organizations they were involved in as an undergraduate, “have grown to become principled, engaged, communicative, and unafraid leaders.”

From undergraduates to associate directors the SOAR office is a living breathing history of the impact student organizations continue to have on at the UC Santa Cruz campus. 

The dedicated SOMeCA team includes staff: Sayo Fujiko, director; Don Williams, director for cultural arts and diversity; Katherine (Kat) Canales, associate director for SOAR; Francisco Galvan, associate director; Jennifer Cain, assistant director for student media; Cory Fong, program manager for SOAR; Jhordy Gongora, program organizer for SOAR/engaging education; Carmen Gutierrez, program manager for SOAR/student-run sustainability organizations; Arlan Mendiola, program manager for SOAR; Griffin Smith, financial and facilities operations coordinator; and Susan Watrous, program manager for student media. 

Learn more about SOAR and stay connected on Instagram.