of Greater Santa Barbara

Alumna Story

Yesenia: From Girls Inc. to UCLA


Yesenia attended Girls Inc.’s summer camp program from third-eighth grades before returning as a volunteer and now, a summer camp facilitator. She is studying nursing and education at UCLA, and credits Girls Inc. with helping her get to where she is today.

“Girls Inc. first taught me about college. I had a facilitator who taught us what college was and what it was like, and how you get there. That was in 5th grade. We made poster boards about different colleges and different fields of study, and the college I picked was UCLA. I didn’t know then you could apply to any college you wanted.”

At camp the summer before entering eighth grade, Yesenia learned about first aid and how to make a sling. Coming to Girls Inc. during this time, when “you can either go one route (getting into trouble) or another (staying focused on academics)” remains one of the things for which Yesenia is most grateful.  After the last three weeks of summer camp, Yesenia returned to school with a different mindset. “Girls Inc. ingrained in me that I was entering eighth grade and college was just around the corner.”

She returned to Girls Inc. as a volunteer the summer after her freshman year, and this time it was the third graders who were learning about college. This “reminder” put UCLA back on Yesenia’s radar, along with the idea of potentially studying nursing. As a Girls Inc. volunteer, she also discovered her passion for service. During her senior year of high school, Yesenia chose to attend UCLA – seven years after she first learned about college and UCLA at Girls Inc.’s summer camp.

After she graduates from UCLA, Yesenia plans on working in a hospital setting, possibly in pediatrics, before enrolling in a masters of education program. After she started working at Girls Inc., she realized she wanted to further pursue early childhood education. She credits Girls Inc. Smart programs for helping her prioritize her studies and wanting to do well in school. And she is bringing back topics she is learning in college to share with girls as a CAMP IGNITE facilitator.

“If I hadn’t come to Girls Inc., my life would be different. I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

When I first came to Girls Inc. I was shy. Girls Inc. helped me to be more vocal and to stand up for myself. And then I noticed that I was more open to raising my hand in class at school and to participating. If it wasn’t for me being able to speak out, I wouldn’t be where I am. That helped me stay engaged in school and absorb more information. That helped me get to college and it will help me pursue education even beyond college.


Are you a Girls Inc. alumna?

Consider joining the Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara Alumnae Group, and send an email to info@girlsincsb.org to share how Girls Inc. impacted your life and shaped who you are today. Tell us about your latest accomplishments and how you are inspiring other girls and young women.