1st Gen Mentors

Who Can Mentor:

San Jacinto College 1st Gen Mentors are faculty and staff members who were first generation college students. These passionate individuals are dedicated to helping students who are the first in their families to attend college. Mentors work one-on-one with designated students and support them in all aspects of college life. Mentors and mentees decide together how they will meet and what type of support is needed.

If you are a faculty or staff member interested in mentoring a student, please click on "Become a Mentor" on the left, and fill out the interest form. Someone will contact you soon!


Meet our Mentors

Michelle Wilson - Director of Teaching & Learning Initiatives

Michelle WilsonMichelle Cantu Wilson is from Brownsville, Texas and was the first in her family to achieve a college degree. She has an Associate of Arts degree, a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in English, and a Master's in Educational Administration and Supervision. She earned her Doctorate of Education degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.



Rene Leija - Faculty, College Prep Math

Rene LeijaRene Leija is from Channelview, Texas. First of many cousins to graduate with a college degree. He received his Bachelors of Science in Mathematics from the University of Houston, Clear Lake and will receive his Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with Specialization in Mathematics this December.


Rene Leija is a College Prep Mathematics instructor at the Central Campus. He was encouraged to be a mentor since he was also a 1st Gen student being able to give insight to help encourage students. He has been married for 25 years and has two incredible boys. He enjoys spending time volunteering a his church where he and his family are actively involved.


Jose DejesusGil - Dean of Enrollment Services

Jose DejesusGilJose DejesusGil is a Dominican immigrant born in Santo Domingo, DR and raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He holds an Associate of Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. He completed a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration at Sam Houston State University.


Jose is a Recruiter at San Jacinto College and a 1st Generation student himself. For years, Jose has been working to provide access and resources to underrepresented students with the hope that their educational goals helps them succeed in their own terms and this program allows him to further his work.


Tanya Madrigal - Department Chair, College Preparatory

Tanya MadrigalTanya Madrigal is from Pasadena, TX and is the first in her family to earn a degree.  She earned an Associate of Arts in Teaching from San Jacinto College Central Campus, Bachelors of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL), Masters in Educational Administration (UHCL) and a second Masters in Instructional Technology from UHCL.  She recently earned her Doctorate of Education in Learning and Organizational Change at Baylor University. 

Tanya is the Department Chair for College Prep at Central Campus and has mentored many first gen students throughout the years since she was one herself and a student here at Central.  She is married with three kids, two fur babies and enjoys volunteering at area pet shelters during her spare time.


Tammi Rice - Faculty, College Preparatory Math

Tammi Rice


Amy Weaver - Project Coordinator for the Health Career Pathways Partnership Grant, CPD

Amy Weaver

Amy Weaver grew up in Denver, Colorado and moved to Texas at the age of 21.  She has attended  college at 2 Community Colleges and 4 Universities. Amy has an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration from San Jacinto College (go Ravens!), a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Information Systems from University of Houston Clear Lake (go Hawks!), and a Master of Science Degree in Technical Management from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (go Eagles!).  Do you see a theme in the college mascots? 

Amy worked full-time while getting all of her college education.  She completed an internship at NASA with Universities Space Research Association while getting her AA; she was a co-op for United Space Alliance while completing her BS; and she completed her MS while working as a software developer and webmaster on the Space Shuttle program.  Amy also recently spent 6 months working with the International Space Station Team on software systems safety for crew life support systems.  Amy started her career at SJC in 2015 as a Division Operations Coordinator for the Business and Technology Division on Central Campus, moved on to become  a Project Coordinator for the Health Career Pathways Partnership Grant in Continuing and Professional Development and is now the Coordinator of Accreditation for San Jacinto College. 


While Amy is not a 1st Gen herself, she chose to join the 1st Gen club as a mentor in 2017 when she realized that her experiences with college and work could be a benefit to 1st Gen students and others involved with 1st Gen.  Amy enjoys working with students; helping them with the daily challenges of college life and juggling schedules with work, school, and family.  She says she gains more joy from seeing a student walk across the stage at graduation, having accomplished their educational goals than even helping land men and women safely on the moon!  Amy is an avid reader, enjoys learning new information technology, following America’s space journeys, and discussing the quantum physics concept of “Spacetime”.  Her greatest pleasure comes spending quality time with her dogs, family, and friends.  Amy is an international traveler; you may want to ask her to share some of her travel stories with you while she helps you find your own pathway in higher education and on the journey of life.


Jessica McCarroll - Sr. Administrative Assistant, Liberal Arts 

Jessica McCarroll


Yesenia Chávez - Faculty, Spanish

Dr. Yesenia Chávez is from from Michoacán, México. She has been in the space city for 25 years. She has been teaching for 18 years in Texas from elementary to college. She was the first one and the only one of 7 siblings to get a college degree. She as a BA in Bilingual Education, a MA and a PH.D. in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Houston. She is currently a Spanish professor at San Jacinto College-Central.


Yesenia decided to become part of the 1rst Gen student group as she sees the need for mentors and role models especially in the Hispanic community. She knows how hard it is to pursue a college degree especially if you have a family to take care of. She is married and has a 3-year-old. She loves listening to music, walk in the part and watch movies on Netflix.


Lisa Kitchens - Learning Management Specialist, Ed Tech-Blackboard

LIsa KitchensLisa Kitchens is from Galveston County. She grew up in Galveston, Tx but has been in Texas City, Tx for almost 30 years. Lisa was the first person in her immediate family to get a college degree. She obtained her Associate of Applied Science- Microcomputer Applications and Networking degree in 2003 while working a full time job and raising three children on her own. After graduation, she started working in the community college technical filed. She was working on her Bachelor's of Science Degree in Visual Communication but had to put it on hold.


Lisa has worked as a Learning Management Specialist at San Jacinto College since 2008 in the EdTech – Blackboard Support office. Since she knows the struggles of a first time college student, she wanted to join the 1st Gen group to let the students know they are NOT alone, they CAN do this, and their DREAMS can come true.

She is a mom to 5 children and has 10 grandchildren. Her youngest child is currently doing dual credit classes and he will be the first of her children to get a college degree. Her hobbies include family, reading, cooking and crafts. Her dream is to finish her BS and get a Master’s degree so she can teach college classes when she retires and travels the United States. She’s already retired from one career and started a second, why not start a third? LOL


John White Jr. - Faculty, Criminal Justice

John White

My name is John W. White Jr. and I am a professor for Criminal Justice. I live in Nassau Bay, Texas with my wife and San Jacinto College student-son (and cat named Sammi Bearkat). I am retired from the Deer Park (Texas) Police Department with 21 years of service. I started my career in policing in the U.S. Army Reserves -Military Police Corps in 1986. I also attended junior college before getting my  Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University. Eventually I earned a Master's in Criminal Justice in 2002, while working at the Deer Park Police Department.

I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college. This is why I am interested in the 1st Gen Mentoring program. Perhaps I can help a student with the feelings and issues related to this.  Like so many of my students, I worked and juggled family, friends, and life trying to get through college. After getting my B.S. degree, my first job in my career field was with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). My dream job came when I got hired by the Deer Park Police Department in September of 1993.

I lived and worked in Deer Park after that for 21 years. My wife is a teacher for Clear Creek I.S.D. and my youngest son is also a student here at San Jac. He is almost finished and will transfer to U of H Clear Lake after this semester. My oldest son graduated from San Jacinto College in May of 2015 with a drafting degree, but he returned to San Jac. to work on his History degree. He and his wife are currently at U of H Clear Lake, working part time jobs and striving to be teachers!  

I have a passion for learning and teaching, which seem to go hand-in-hand. This combined with my training and experience, will hopefully benefit a “mentee,” and help them achieve their career goals. In my spare time I enjoy working out, hanging out with the family, relaxing at the beach, and usually attending Astros games/ watching sports.


Sharon Nelson - Faculty, Life Science

Sharon NelsonSharon Nelson is from Manvel, Texas and was the first in her family to achieve a college degree. She has an Associate’s of Science degree, a double Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry, as well as a Master's in Biochemistry. Sharon is published 3 times in Scientific Journals for her scientific research throughout college as well as from her time as a Research Assistant at Baylor College of Medicine.


Sharon is a Life Science Professor at Central Campus. After 16 years of serving as the Women’s Volleyball Coach at San Jac, Sharon moves her teaching, coaching, and mentoring skills into the science classroom where she intends to continue to inspire and develop strong, independent thinkers for a life of success. She is a wife and mom and her hobbies include sewing, baking, and of course volleyball.


Rodrigo Vinluan III - Faculty, Chemistry

RodrigoRodrigo Vinluan III was originally from Dallas, Texas and was the first in his family to obtain a college degree. He went to the University of Texas at Dallas, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. He stayed at the same university to get his Doctorate degree in Chemistry (PhD) with emphasis on nanotechnology. Afterwards, Dr. Vinluan accepted a postdoctoral research fellowship opportunity at Rice University and worked on cancer nanotechnology – where Biology, Chemistry, and Nanotechnology coalesce. Currently, he is a professor here at San Jacinto College teaching Chemistry.


Danielle Bible - Faculty, History

Danielle BibleDanielle Bible is a native Houstonian and graduate of the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL), where she earned her B.A. and M.A. in History, specializing in Latin American history.  She is the first in her family to attend college and relates to students’ sense of impostership.  She, like many other first generation students, understands the demands of juggling school, work, family, cultural dissonance, and hunger.  She is currently mentoring her two oldest daughters, both of whom are also students at San Jacinto College. 

Renee Hall - Faculty, English

Renee HallRenee Hall is from Richmond, Virginia but moved to Texas from North Carolina October 2014. She is a first generation student and a two-time graduate of North Carolina Agricultural State University. Renee has a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Broadcast Production (Minor: English) and a Master’s in English and African American Literature. Additionally, she has earned a certificate in teaching adults from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Currently, Renee is an academic advisor for undecided/undeclared students at the University of Houston (Main) and a part-time English instructor at San Jacinto College-Central.


The inspiration and motivation behind Renee’s involvement in becoming a mentor to first generation students is her mother, the late Addie Hall. Her mother did not graduate from high school, and it was her motivation and drive that encouraged Renee to complete high school and graduate college. Additionally, Renee experienced many challenges as a first-generation student: not knowing the correct questions to ask, ‘self-advising’, and not knowing the impact of how one’s financial aid is linked or connected to one’s grades, to name a few. She is passionate about assisting first generation students as they begin their academic journey towards a college degree.

During her spare time, Renee enjoys serving in the community. She tutors adults at the Adult Reading Center in Pearland, Texas, as they prepare for the GED test. Not only that, Renee serves the homeless community at Fish and Loaves in Houston. She has been an active participant of both since 2015 and 2016, respectively. This mother of one, soon-to-be college graduate enjoys reading, listening to music, and exercising.

Amy Axtell - Faculty, College Prep; Intentional Connections Coordinator

Amy AxtellAmy Axtell is from Houston, Texas and comes from a long line of educators.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education (1-8) from the University of Houston – Clear Lake with Specialization in Reading and Geography and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston.  She is currently attending graduate school to earn her hours in Graduate English to be credentialed to teach Academic English.


Although, Amy came from a house with educated parents, her father being a college professor, she has always had a heart for the struggling student.  Her desire is to show students that they can all succeed and that there is always someone in their corner.  As an advisor for the 1st Gen Student Group, she has been able to be that voice for these students and help them learn to be their own advocate.  She is a wife and mom to two teenage boys.  Her family and her faith are very important to her.


John Osterman - Faculty, Government

John OstermanJohn Osterman is from Baltimore, Maryland and was the first in his family to achieve a college degree. He has an Associate of Management degree, a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, and a Masters in Liberals Arts (Political Science). He is also ABD (All But Dissertation) in Political Science from UH.


John is a government professor at Central Campus and decided to join a 1st Gen student group and a mentoring program after learning about it.  He is a father of four and his hobby is studying what makes individuals successful.


Maria Aguirre -Maria Aguirre Counselor

Maria Aguirre is a Counselor at San Jacinto Central Campus. Maria was the first one in her family to achieve a college degree.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Master’s degree in Counseling.  


Maria has experience in the following areas:  Admissions, Recruiting, Transcript Evaluations, High School student Advising, Mental Health Counselor, Career Advising, Student Success Instructor, Administering ACT/SAT tests.  In addition, Maria has experience working with victims of family violence and sexual assault.  Maria decided to give back what she learned through her work experience by mentoring 1st GEN students at San Jacinto College.


Jerry Ivins - Faculty, Theatre and Film

Jerry IvinsDr. Jerry “Doc” Ivins is in his 24th year as an instructor at San Jacinto College Central and 23rd year as the Artistic Director of Theatre and Film.  He has also served six years as the Chair of the Art/Speech/Journalism departments, and one and a half years as Interim Associate Dean of Fine Arts and Language Arts. Dr. Ivins received his A.S degree from Paris Junior College, B.A. and M.A. degrees from U. of H., and his doctorate from Texas Tech.  He has directed and/or cast over 500 films, commercials, and plays. Doc served for seven years as a Financial Aid Counselor at Texas Tech University, two years as a part-time Admissions Counselor at the University of Houston and two years as a University Recruiter for Educational Talent Search.  Dr. Ivins has been honored as SJCC’s Outstanding Faculty, Minnie Piper nominee, Distinguished Faculty, and recently received national recognition at the League of Innovation for Excellence in Education for 2015.  Also, in 2015, he was honored by the Texas Educational Theatre Association with the Founder's Award.


Norberto Valladares - Customer Care Analyst

Norberto ValladaresNorberto Valladares was born and raised in San Francisco, California and was the first in his immediate family to achieve a college degree. He has an Associate of Applied Science degree (Pilot Development Program) from San Jacinto College. He is planning on attending University of Houston-Clear Lake in Spring 2019 to earn his degree in Public Service Leadership.


Norberto works in the Information Technology Services (ITS) department as a Customer Care Analyst. When he heard about the 1st Gen student group being formed, he knew it was something he wanted to be involved in. Moving from San Francisco to Houston on his own, attending college, and getting used to a new place wasn’t easy. He felt that he could share some of his experiences and his struggles with those that were going through something similar. He is a husband and father and his hobbies include online gaming, commercial aviation and listening to dance music.


Loli Priddy - Sr. Administrative Assistant, Chemistry Department

LoliLoli Priddy from Houston, Texas and I was the first to go to college and complete with 2 degrees in my family.  I received both an Associates of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences at San Jacinto College and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, Summa Cum Laude from Capella University.  I work at San Jacinto College in the Natural Sciences department as a Senior Administrative Assistant.  I started at San Jac in the Bookstore, then at the Admission office, formerly Enrollment Services, and then where I am now.  I have been blessed to work with wonderful people who help me achieve my best.


Being a first gen student myself, I know where you are coming from.  I remember the struggles with registering and when to ask questions.  Knowing that there is someone who can point you in the right direction and help you ask the right questions can give peace of mind.  I hope that is what I can do for you.


Dawn Shedd - Director, Student Success Center 

Dawn SheddDawn Shedd is from Corpus Christi, Texas. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master of Arts in History from the University of Texas at San Antonio.


Dawn is the Director of the Student Success Center on Central Campus and also teaches history at Central part-time. She decided to join the 1st Gen group as a mentor because she is also a first generation college student and wants to help San Jacinto College students be successful. She has two daughters and loves the outdoors.


Jeff Pearce - Career Coordinator, Center for Petrochemical Energy and Technology

j pearce Jeff is from Santa Fe, Texas and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Fitness and Human Performance from University of Houston at Clear Lake. He will start pursuing his Master’s degree in Higher Education and Administration this year.

Jeff currently serves as the Career Coordinator for the Center for Petrochemical Energy and Technology.  Prior to that, he was the Assistant Volleyball Coach at San Jacinto College and served as the Academic Coordinator for the Athletic Programs for the last five years. 


One of the greatest obstacles Jeff has seen in his years as a college employee is getting in the door.  There are so many boxes to check in order to become a student that it is sometimes overwhelming.  Removing these anxieties of a new student and getting him/her to focus on their studies has a history of producing a more successful first semester.  Jeff has three children and loves spending time outdoors with them.


Jay Thomas - Facilities and Event Coordinator, Theatre

Jay Thomas is from Pearland, Texas and was the first and only one in his household to earn a college degree.  He has an Associate of Arts degree (San Jacinto College Central) and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Theatre (University of Houston; graduated Cum Laude).


Jay enjoys working with students, especially in a mentoring capability.  The 1st Gen program allows him to assist those who are striving for a goal where it may be difficult to find help.  He is a husband and dad of 2.  His hobbies include family and sports.


Kristen Redding - Faculty, PHED, FIRE, GUST; Wellness Coordinator

kristen redding

Kristen Redding is from Waco, Texas. She was a student athlete at Baylor University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in Sports Management. She has taught at San Jac for over 25 years. She teaches PHED, FIRE, and GUST and is the Wellness Coordinator for the faculty and staff.

Kristen teaches GUST on Central Campus and decided to participate in the 1st Gen mentoring program after watching her own children go through the first year of college. She is very passionate about helping college freshman get through what she believes is one of the toughest transitions we make as adults. 


Sharon Griffin - Faculty, Psychology

Sharon Griffin

Sharon Griffin was born in Muscat, Oman and spent the first 5 years on her life in India. In December 1986, Sharon and her family migrated to Pasadena, TX. Sharon was the first in her family to achieve a college degree. Sharon started her educational career at San Jacinto College – Central Campus. Upon completion of her pre-requisites, she transferred to the University of Houston – Clear Lake, where she attained both a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Psychology and a Master's of Arts in Psychology, with a specialization in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.


Sharon is a Psychology Professor at Central Campus and decided to get involved as a 1st Gen mentor because she feels she can be a valuable asset to the students both inside and outside the classroom. Being a 1st Gen student herself, Sharon has been where student are and understands the challenges of navigating college without guidance. She wants students to be successful and achieve their educational goals by being knowledgeable of the resources available to them and most importantly, utilizing them. She met her husband on Central Campus and they have been together for 16 years, married for 11 of those years, with 5 beautiful children. Some of her hobbies include spending time with family/friends, traveling, thrift store shopping, reading, and watching movies, especially psychological thrillers! 


Luis Reyes - Faculty, Behavioral and Social Sciences

Luis Reyes

Luis Reyes was born in Houston, Texas and lived in the area his entire life. Both of his parents are from Mexico and helped Mr. Reyes to succeed. He earned an Associate of Social Sciences at San Jacinto College and both his Bachelors and Master in History at the University of Houston -Clear Lake. He has plans to earn a PhD in the future.


Sue Kostohryz - Faculty, College Prep

Sue KSue Kostohryz grew up in rural Northeastern Ohio and received a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Kent State University where she majored in speech and minored in English.  She taught high school in the Cleveland, Ohio suburbs, got married and began her family there.  In the late 1980’s, Sue and her family relocated to the San Francisco Bay area.  Years later, when most of her peers were planning retirement, Sue went back to school and received a MA in English with the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) option.  Sue taught non-native speakers at a community college in the Bay Area until she accepted a position at San Jac Central in 2012.

Sue is a College Prep professor at Central and is especially interested in how language, identity, and culture affect student success.  She views 1st Gen as the best place outside of the classroom to use her skills to aid students to be more successful.  Sue is married and is a grandmother.  She loves to read, swim, and cook.


Stefanie Mitchell - Faculty, Psychology

Stefanie MitchellStefanie Mitchell has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and received her Master of Arts Degree in Psychology from University of Houston Clear Lake. She is the mother of 2 young children that keep her on her toes and is passionate about healthy eating and living!


Stefanie is a Psychology professor at Central Campus and decided to become a mentor to first generation students after teaching the PSYC 1300 classes and seeing such a need for the support. Her main focus is helping students succeed and she will do everything in her power to assist and support first gen students. 


Katherine "Kat" Aguilar - Educational Planner

KatI am Katherine “Kat” Aguilar. I earned an Associates of General Studies from San Jacinto College and a Bachelor’s of Criminal Justice from the University of Houston - Downtown.

I am an Educational Planner and I joined 1st Gen to help students get through one of the toughest journeys they will take in life and be successful. I was a non-traditional student and I learned firsthand life does not stop because we are attending school. I know what it is to fail and want to quit but never give up no matter how long it takes.