Meet Mandy Lucas, Promise Scholars Counselor at Skyline College
Interview by Katharine Harer, AFT 1493 Co-Vice President & Outreach Organizer
Mandy Lucas has worked as a Promise Scholars Program Counselor at Skyline College for three years. We decided to interview her and share her profile with our readers to draw attention to our hard-working counseling faculty across the district and, in particular, to the important work of Promise Scholars Counselors.
What made you want to become a college counselor?
I became a college counselor because I believe that education can be a place of liberation and social change. I believe an education can provide opportunities to students and can create opportunities for their families and their communities. I can relate to this as a first-generation, low-income college student, a daughter of an immigrant, and a daughter of migrant farm workers. Education was the door to opening opportunities for me and my family. My family was impacted by mental health issues, addictions, incarceration and poverty, so I also understand the difficulty of pursuing an education while facing systemic ills in this country. The reason I was able to get through these challenges was because I had the support of professors, counselors, and mentors in educational spaces. It was these people that helped me realize my potential and helped me better understand the circumstances in which I was living. Although I know not every student will have the same experience, I recognize that my experiences and my role as a Pinay and Chicana counselor can serve as a source of inspiration for my students, their families, and communities.
Can you share some anecdotes about your students?
Some of my favorite stories about students are when they finally realize their full potential. I had one student who always thought of herself as average, had a lot of self-esteem issues, and never thought she was really smart. Through many tough conversations, she began to realize her potential as both a student and a professional. She was initially only interested in attending a CSU campus because she felt she wasn’t “UC material,” but after many conversations, she finally decided she’d apply to both UC and CSU campuses. As she began to realize her potential, she applied for an internship and obtained it, working for one of the big four accounting firms in the nation. And although she didn’t initially see herself as “UC material,” she ended up attending UC Irvine!
Our role as counselors is not always easy. Many of our students have been impacted by Covid and mental health issues. Most people think that our role as academic counselors is solely to talk about courses and student ed plans, but our students come to us when they need us for support and guidance. I had one student who kept failing his courses and often felt defeated. His family struggled through the pandemic financially. After many difficult conversations, he finally considered seeking a therapist and began to work through many of his challenges, and he came to find out his battle wasn’t school, but that there were underlying mental health issues he was battling without even knowing. Although he had an extremely difficult time academically, the work he was doing personally was exactly what he needed to do. He is still working through coping and managing his mental health, but he’s now empowered to use his experiences to bring awareness and education to the community.
Students in a Career Panel workshop Mandy organized for her class and other Promise Scholars. There was a great student turnout and 7 professionals were on the panel.
Before you came to Skyline, what kind of work were you doing?
Prior to getting hired in the district, I worked as an adjunct EOPS Counselor at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, CA and as adjunct IMPACT AAPI Counselor at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA. Prior to that I was a Coordinator/Counselor at UC San Diego for the Summer Bridge Program in the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS), which is UCSD’s EOP Office.
What do you like best about working at Skyline? Worst?
Our faculty, staff, and students are the best! As an educator, collaboration is always key, and our faculty and staff are great at collaborating and being mindful of supporting each other’s needs and capacities. The worst part about Skyline isn’t really about Skyline. The worst part is that I live in the East Bay so my commutes to work are really long. I wish there were more affordable options for faculty/staff to live closer to campus.
The District has recently hired a number of new Promise Scholars Counselors. What advice would you give them?
Promise moves fast and can demand a lot from you, so be ready! Although it can be fast-paced, don’t forget you have the opportunity to be a mentor for your students and create lasting bonds with them. Additionally, don’t be afraid to speak up when something in the program is not working for your students. Although our programs are well intended, sometimes they are not always student-friendly, so don’t be afraid to advocate for your students so our program can be more student-centered. It’s also easy to stay isolated in our PSP bubbles due to the nature of our work, but get involved on campus and in our union!
Speaking of AFT 1493, what kinds of things have you done with our faculty union?
I am a rank-and-file member and try my best to support all efforts of the union. I have participated in the Contract Action Team (CAT) meetings and attend union meetings and events when my schedule permits.
When you have free time, how do you like to spend it?
I love to be outdoors and often spend my free time hiking or camping. I also love playing volleyball and softball when the weather is nice outside. I love to cook and spend time with my partner, family, and friends!
If you would like to suggest a faculty member for us to interview and feature in the next issue of The Advocate, please write to Eric Brenner, Advocate Editor, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Katharine (email@example.com.)