Rique Ortega '17

Rique OrtegaMajor: Mechanical Engineering

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?  Tell us about your story, and what you think has helped you succeed so far at UP?

From a young age I always had it set in my mind that I was going to go to college and be successful (not that going to college necessarily equates to success). From about 6th grade on my parents were no longer able to help me in math or science, which made things harder for me as I was on my own for the most part in terms of class work. My parents were always good about letting me be independent, which translated to me doing well in school, getting a job at 16, playing sports, etc. I was always a self motivator and because of that they didn't need to do much to get me to do things. Although my parents never went to college, they have both made a great lives for themselves as well as their kids. My motivation stemmed significantly from my Mom's story. If you want a story of someone going from nothing to something well here it is... My mom at age 16 had two kids, was a single mother, had ran away from home due to an abusive mother, and at points did not eat in order for her kids to eat and be healthy. She started at McDonald's and eventually moved to a "no name" bank in Woodland, CA. She began as a teller and worked her butt off in order to move up. Flash forward 30 years from McDonald's and my mom is now a Director for Wells Fargo and is striving for more! My mom is a hustler, a go-getter, an influence, and most of all an amazing mother. I could not be where I am today without her and hearing her story. How can you not try hard when you have a mom that went through it all to become successful. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity that I have and because I am aware of that I work as hard as I can to ensure I take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself and become successful.

What did it mean for you to be a part of the FGEN community and to be a FGEN Student Ambassador while you were a student at UP?

The FGEN community was special! For me... being an FGEN student meant that I had an opportunity to set the trend for my family going forward. It meant I had the opportunity to fight against the odds stacked against me. It meant that I put myself in a place where I could succeed. The FGEN community was special because we did not have the advantage of having parents or siblings able to help us throughout college in order to learn the ins and outs as many students have. We are thrown into the fire and told to succeed and prove others wrong. For me, that is what is most exciting! I have had many times in my life where others have thought I wouldn't be much (whether that be in life or a specific task/job) and every time I have proven them wrong. As an FGEN student we bring a different perspective to life and school that others simply cannot have without our experiences. We offer more than others think and once you, as an FGEN student, notice that, you feel like you can take the world by storm. Being an FGEN ambassador is an absolute honor. Being through the majority of my schooling and multiple positions throughout my time here at UP, I feel that I have a lot of knowledge to share to the FGEN community. I want to not only aid FGEN students in their path to success, but I want to empower them. I want every FGEN student to believe that they can do this and they can make a better life for themselves and their family. I want FGEN students to see the power and influence they have on the community around them. Let's take the FGEN community and let people know that we are here and are here to make a difference!

What is your advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges?

Never be afraid to ask many questions along the way! Look to the community around you and ask for help. You have the FGEN community, the UP community, the FGEN ambassadors, your professors, etc. The resources out there for you to get help and people will be more than happy to help. Don't be afraid to ask your parents or siblings for help. Although they may not have the direct answer, they will be able to give you an outside perspective which can be more valuable.

Has a mentor played a role in your experience at UP?  How so?

Yes, and many of them! My mom played my first mentor and still is today. Her advice and actions served as contributions to my life. She may not have gone to college but she is knowledgeable in many other ways that I consider more important. She always has the answers to tough questions and has never steered me wrong. Along with my mom, various professors have served as mentors, whether they know it or not. I like to pick the people in my life I want to emulate in a specific way and then not just have one mentor but have multiple that can help me in various ways. It not only aids me now, but builds a better network for me in the future.

What resources have been significant, meaningful, or helpful for you during your UP experience?

Family and friends have been my biggest resource due to their common knowledge and the ability to remind me that situations are usually never as bad as they may seem. Professors have also been another huge resource for me, not only for class help but for life advice as well. Get to know faculty and professors as they want to help and when given the opportunity will help you in so many ways.

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