Los Aztecas Alumni Mentors Make a Difference
Months before her commencement while she was still a student, Amanda Cheyney (’10) joined the SDSU Alumni Association. As her primary chapter, she chose Los Aztecas Latino Alumni, an organization that supports the efforts of Latino professionals, promotes advancement of the SDSU and Latino communities, and mentors Latino students.
Amanda Cheyney ('10) in her commencement cap and gown at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.
“The members of Los Aztecas have been so supportive of us,” says the 31-year-old former business management major. “I want to stay involved with students and give back the way they do.”
As a student, Cheyney was president of the Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA). The organization was founded more than a decade ago by a group of students including Albert Cuevas (’00 ) and Sandro Magana (’00) who are currently members of the Los Aztecas board of directors and who both serve as mentors to the HBSA.
“They’ve been present to give advice and to share their experience and the long-term vision they had for HBSA and what the organization can be for students,” Cheyney explains. “Part of it is creating more opportunities for Hispanics in higher education, in business careers and in the professional environment. They saw a challenge and they created a solution by founding HBSA, so for them to have had that vision ten years ago and for it to still be alive is inspiring.
“Both Sandro and Albert are on our scholarship committee and they provide workshops once a semester. I can remember Sandro coming out and teaching us about networking, interviewing skills, and resume review. He’s an important factor in mentoring our executive board.”
“IT REALLY OPENED MY EYES”
As a founder of HBSA, Magana says he has felt close to the organization even after graduating. As an alumnus with Los Aztecas, the 34-year-old Qualcomm business process analyst says he knows what a mentor can mean to a young person. As a high school student he had a mentor who invited him to professional meetings.
Los Aztecs Latino Alumni board members (l-r) Sandro Magana ('00), Alberto Cuevas ('00), and Harry Kammerzell, II ('00) at a chapter event.
“At the time I was just 16 or 17 and it really opened my eyes,” he says. “I probably would not have known those opportunities existed unless there was a mentor who showed me. I feel like now that I know the ropes and I’m working in the corporate world, it’s time to give back.
As a mentor, I try to show students that there are other things to do in this world than just study books. For example, if they’re graduating soon or even if they’re not I try to let them know there are other avenues to explore outside the classroom -things like networking or getting in touch with professionals or corporations or start making contacts in those industries that they want to work in.”
Cheyney describes Magana as a great mentor.
“He’s a very good listener and he’s very active as well,” she says. “Every year we have a softball tournament with students and alumni and Sandro will be in charge. You can count on him all the time. He’s always there. I could email him, call him, Facebook him, text him and he will respond immediately whether it’s with advice, or if I need a referral with someone.”
“Mentors should be able to listen and put themselves in the shoes of the college student,” reasons Magana. “You have to try to understand where they’re coming from and really listen to what the student is asking and then, as a mentor, you can give them advice, share opportunities and open their eyes.”
Cheyney, who hopes to become a corporate diversity officer, hopes to encourage more alumni to become mentors through Los Aztecas. She says Latino students, who often are the first in their families to attend college, can frequently use some extra support.
2008 softball game Los Aztecas vs. HBSA
“Sometimes it’s difficult for us to find mentors who can relate to us culturally,” she explains. “You can’t deny the fact that culture is a big aspect of our college experience.
“You never know what words of encouragement can make the difference between someone continuing and completing their education and dropping out,” Cheyney continues. “Bottom line, there’s a lot of students who would just need that word of encouragement. Something as simple as that can make a huge, huge difference. Maybe you can’t change my situation, but knowing that you’re there and you’re listening can make all the difference in someone graduating.”
Magana says he thinks many alumni are hesitant to become mentors because they falsely believe there’s a major commitment involved.
“They should overcome the assumption that a mentorship is something that you’re obligated to,” he suggests. “My advice is that it doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment. It’s really just taking a little bit of time in the day to share their experiences with students and it can really help.
“The main reward of mentorship for me is when I see one of the students go on and become successful or they take advantage of some of the things they learned along the way to further their career,” Magana concludes. “And when you see a student not only succeed, but when you see them later on become a mentor to others students, I think that’s really, really cool.”
Learn more about Los Aztecas Latino Alumni