Jacqueline Mayorga Rivera is a college navigator at Mt. Hood Community College, a role funded by Preschool for All. In the following Q&A, you learn a bit about her work and why it’s important!

Headshot of Jacqueline Mayorga RiveraPFA: Hi Jackie! Can you tell me a bit about what your job is?

Jackie: Sure! I’m a college navigator at MHCC, and I work on retention and outreach for our early learning program. The first part of my job is going out and getting in touch with both high school students and people within the community who might be interested in coming to school with us to study early childhood education. This year we’re really working on developing connections with community organizations and high schools to help us reach more people, and we're also going out to more community events just to help folks learn about our program and about career prospects within the early childhood field.

Once students are here, my job is to make sure they’re successful in our program, whether they're trying to do the associate's degree, the one-year certificate, or the two-term certificate, which is the equivalent of a CDA credential. I provide them with student support and connect them to resources around the rest of the campus. 

Finally, I also help students with academic support. That could mean helping them navigate technology such as Blackboard, their student email accounts, or the MHCC student portal. Or I can be an extra set of eyes on their work before they turn it in – especially students whose English is a second language. I also host study sessions in between classes a couple of times a week to give them a quiet space to do their work.

PFA: What do you see as the impact of your role?

Jackie: Before I joined the team, recruitment and everything else was done by our program director, Yolanda Buenafe. Not only did she do that, she also had her director role and her main faculty role. It was just a lot to manage and it was very difficult for her to do all of that on her own. 

With me here as the first point of contact, we're reaching so many students that otherwise would be missed. We're actually able to go out into the community and talk to folks instead of waiting for them to find out about our program and reach out to us. I think that's super important. 

It’s also important for the navigator to be competent in diversity and all of the different social factors going on. Depending on who you're talking to, they're going to have a lot of different barriers and you want to make sure that they feel comfortable joining the program and that you're setting them up for success once they become students.

PFA: What are some of the barriers you see students facing?

Jackie: The biggest barrier for a lot of students is finding financial aid. Thankfully, now the county is offering scholarships for Early Childhood Education and I help students fill out those applications. 

The other big problem is time management. A lot of our students are working full-time. Students can be done with their associates degree within two years if they’re attending full-time. But that can be a big challenge for a lot of our students because they have children at home, they have a full-time job, they have to take care of their families – it's too much. For those reasons, many of our students come part-time. Getting their degree takes a little longer. It can be a bit frustrating for students, but the goal is to have them be successful and pass all their classes, and sometimes to do that we have to encourage them to lighten their class load.

PFA: How do you support students through those barriers?

Jackie: I do a mixture of things from problem-solving to cheerleading. This year we're going to focus on time management. That's something I saw our students struggle with last year. They want to get done quickly and take a full load of four classes. It can be too much and cause them not to be successful in all those classes. So we're really going to communicate with them that you don’t have to overwhelm yourself – if you don’t have the capacity to come full-time, that is completely okay! Over half of our students are part-time. We want them to come, and we also want them to be successful. We want to help get them there. So if that means just taking one class per term, that's what we'll encourage them to do.

PFA: Both of the college navigator positions that Preschool for All funds are bilingual. We prioritized that. Do you think it’s important?

Jackie: It’s really important to have bilingual support for students – I wish we had more! I wish there was more than just me, because I speak Spanish, but we have a lot of Arab students and Asian students who speak a variety of languages. They also need that support. It would be really great if we had more of that. 

PFA: Do you offer support for students moving on from the program and into their next steps?

Jackie: Yes! We do interview prep for our second year students when they're getting ready to graduate, and we help them with their resumes and cover letters. These things really help boost their confidence and position them for opportunities.

We had a particular student who was a mom and had returned to school after a couple of years. From the beginning she told me, “I want to get straight A's, and I want to graduate in this particular amount of time!”

She set herself up by attending a college success class, and she was academically great. She was perfect. Then it came time to graduate, and she was telling me, “I’m applying for jobs, but I haven't been getting callbacks. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong.”

I looked at her materials, and she had included very little to highlight all the experience she actually had. She came in two weeks in a row over the summer so we could work on her cover letter and resume. I called her in August for a student survey that PFA asked me to do, and she was super excited. She told me, “Oh my gosh, after you helped me with my resume and cover letter, I got a bunch of interviews and I just got an offer and I'm starting next week!” That was amazing. I was so happy for her.