Jessica Zenteno – Riverside City College

Jessica Zenteno – Student Interview ’24

Community Action Leadership Academy (CALA) – Riverside City College 

We are grateful to Jessica Zenteno for sharing her experience with us on being part of our extensive CYLC learn-and-earn career pathway. She is a student fellows in our Community Action Leadership Academy (CALA) and is set to graduate in 2025.  Learn more about her experience in our program and her future goals in  advocacy for historically marginalized individuals in her local community.

In what ways did this fellowship experience contribute to your personal and professional growth, and how do you envision yourself applying the skills you have acquired into your local community?

This fellowship has created an abundance of experience for me such as the opportunity to gain valuable skills and knowledge, including technical proficiency, communication, collaboration, project management skills, and professional networking. I also have had the privilege to manage social media affairs.

Tell us about a moment or accomplishment during your fellowship that you are particularly proud of. How did it contribute to the goals of the organization or project you were involved in?

A memorable moment for me during my internship was when I was told that I would be the intern “spearhead” of the upcoming Mental and Health Wellness Events. Along with being a social justice intern, I have a background as well as passion for Mental Health and holistic Medicine so when I was told that I would be able to lead these events it made me feel honored as well as excited for the work to come with First Serv. I am proud to say the first Mental Health and Wellness Hike on February 25th, 2024 was a success! We had 25/25 sign-ups on The event brite page I created as well as Volunteers that I coordinated with Ms. Alayna Elam the CEO of First Serv and Phi Alpha beta from Loma Linda Health University. Ms. Greta Casino the Lead Intern at Phi Alpha was kind enough to first begin and lead the event with Yoga and we were able to complete the hike as a group. I’m proud of myself for currently being 8 months pregnant and still showing up for the event and joining along on the hike. The whole mission behind this event and the ones to come is to spread awareness of the importance of practicing good mental health and wellness lifestyle habits and changes, as well as to hike for the advocacy of housing and do it in a way where it’s with the community and its engaging and physically and mentally motivating. It was in support of the organization’s mission of Restoring Dignity to the Community and Those in Need. First Serv’s Mission is to serve with integrity and excellence, providing holistic shared housing for those who are homeless, transitioning, and recovering

What are your plans for the future? In reflecting on your fellowship, what key lessons or insights did you gain, and how do you plan to apply these learning’s in your future endeavors or career path? For example, are you excited about starting a new job/career in your field, and or continuing school?

I am currently on track to graduate from Riverside City College Spring of 2025 with an Associates in Behavioral and Health Sciences as well as Sociology. I look forward to transferring to Cal Baptist University to pursue my bachelors in Sociology, and Masters in Counseling. I look forward to the work that’s to come once I achieve those educational goals. I too aspire to have my own Non Profit Organization one day.

Can you tell us how we did as an organization and partner at your school? What would you improve, what did you like, and what advice would you give to future participants? How can they maximize their learning and make the most of their hands-on opportunities within an organization?

I feel CYLC has been amazing with support, connection and hands on opportunities to make a great impact within the community. I would love if for the next cohort we could have presentations as well as a meeting with CYLC partners so students can see first hand who we are supported and paid by. I think that most students felt they would have benefited from this including myself.

Can you share your social justice origin story? What drives you to do the work in creating social change in your local community?

My passion for social Justice work began when I started working as a nurse in 2013-2021. I have always wanted to better the lives of others. Once I decided to go back to school full time in  2022 after 10 years of no formal education, I felt it only fit to jump into sociology for transfer. Many things drive me to strive to make changes in my community such as the multiple existent disparities and broken systems in not only our health care but in our educational systems as well. I enjoy being able to be a resource to others as well as being hands on with engagement and involvement when it comes to housing and food scarcities.

What are some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in your local community and in society?

Some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed within my community and local society would be homelessness, food scarcity and lack of affordable housing.