WSU mentors help shape student’s career, community goals
OGDEN, Utah – Moving from Honduras to Clearfield, Utah, as a child, María Rios Cabrera couldn’t help but notice the contrast.
While the move gave her family a more secure future, and she marveled over Utah’s changing fall colors, she missed Honduran culture — the friendly chats with strangers; the lively, joyous music; and the juicy, fresh pineapples and guavas that are hard to find in the states.
Rios Cabrera dreams of returning to Honduras to build a school one day, but she knows she will need to focus on her own education first. She came to Weber State, pursuing quantitative economics and mechanical engineering majors, after being frustrated at a larger university.
“I couldn’t connect with my professors. They were never available,” she said about her former school. “In the middle of one semester, my academic advisor told me that she was no longer my advisor and wished me ‘good luck,’ and I didn’t know what to do.”
At WSU, she became a mentor in the Peer Mentor program, and ended up receiving guidance she previously lacked. “Olga Antonio and the other mentors I worked with helped me through a lot of things,” she said. “But, also, the students I mentor actually taught me a lot.”
She now serves as student coordinator for Creating Achievement Through Transition, or CATT, offering mentorship to students with learning disabilities who are transitioning from high school.
“Having a disability doesn’t make you dumb or less valuable as a human being,” said Rios Cabrera, who also has a learning disability. “In fact, it makes you a more well-rounded person, because you view the world differently, you can adapt really quickly, and you can connect with people in a way that other people can’t.”
While she fell in love with mechanical engineering at her prior school and hopes to become an engineer in the aerospace industry, quantitative economics took more time to grow on her. She realized its value after speaking with professor Gavin Roberts, who suggested majoring in the field to help her achieve her dream in Honduras.
“María is wonderful to work with. She always asks relevant and penetrating questions that make it clear she is dedicated to understanding economics on a deep level,” Roberts said. “I think economics will help María think critically about the economic and institutional underpinnings of some of the problems she sees in Honduras, problems that underlie her dream of building the school.”
She plans to write her thesis on what it will take to build the school.
For her leadership and dedication to other students, the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation selected Rios Cabrera as a 2022 Ivory Prize award recipient. With the award, she received a $2,000 cash prize and a $5,000 donation she selected the CATT program to receive.
Jaime Winston, Marketing & Communications
Bryan Magaña, public relations director