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UP! alumni turned staff member

December 9, 2020

Cat Melgar currently works part-time as a Youth Program Assistant with our college access and success program, UP! (University Prep). Although she has been working at Canal Alliance since July 2020, she has been involved with us for over 10 years as an UP! Student and graduate.  

Cat Melgar

Cat was born in El Salvador and came to the United States with her mother when she was five years old. She has lived in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael for the majority of her life. She says, “the Canal community is full of culture, compassion, and loving families.” 

Cat received her associate’s degree in Psychology from College of Marin and her bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. During her time at UC Irvine, Cat conducted research which focused on exploring the experiences of racial and ethnic minority college students at four-year institutions.   

She first heard about UP! after a teacher encouraged her mom to enroll Cat in the program. Cat attended UP!, where she received academic, financial, and emotional support from Canal Alliance staff and volunteers through middle and high school, and throughout college.   

According to Cat, UP! has helped her academically and personally. She says, “UP! staff showed me great support when I applied to college. Many times, when others discouraged me and made me believe that I was aiming too high or when I doubted my own potential, the staff always gave me support, encouragement and the tools I needed to succeed even when it seemed impossible.” When she was at UC Irvine, she continued to feel support from the UP! Program even if it was just a call to see how she was doing. “Receiving a call from the UP! staff helped me stay connected to the program and the community.”  

Throughout her college career, Cat also received support from staff at College of Marin and at UC Irvine. Cat says she had the privilege of working with her mentor, Dr. Castellanos, Associate Dean of Social Sciences at UC Irvine. “Dr. Castellanos helped me navigate my time at UC Irvine and guided me through the graduate school application process.”   

“Working at Canal Alliance aligns with my career path of working with marginalized college students in higher education and helping them succeed.” She is currently applying to graduate school and looking at master’s programs with an emphasis in educational leadership, diversity,  social justice, student affairs, and organizational change.”  

Cat’s academic journey as a first-generation Latina student has led her to a career where she wants to help other students succeed and realize their dreams. She says, “the best advice I can give to students in  UP! or who are considering joining is to take advantage of the resources and support that Canal Alliance provides.” She goes on to say, “Since many students in UP! are first-generation college-bound students, it is important to create a community, an academic family, and to turn to your peers for emotional and academic support. UP! is not just a place where you have access to tutoring and space to do homework, but it is also where students can grow and receive the necessary tools to help them in their college journey and life.” 

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