Loraine “LJ” Nuñez first learned about the impact of mentoring and the supportive community that grows from it as a young mentee at Eximius College Preparatory Academy. Almost six years later, the sophomore at the University of Vermont is mentoring students like her former self to succeed in college.
Her mentoring journey began when she was paired with Lasana Drame, a senior at Eximius at the time, as part of a CFES Brilliant Pathways mentoring program. They made an instant connection and developed a bond that, unbeknownst to them at the time, would continue years later UVM.
After Lasana graduated from Eximius in 2017 to pursue an electrical engineering degree at UVM, Nuñez took advantage of opportunities presented by CFES and Eximius, including a Syracuse Summer Program that took her to the upstate New York campus her junior year. “The more experiences you have, the better-rounded you can be as a person,” she says.
Nuñez continued taking advantage of new opportunities when she arrived at UVM, where she enrolled in a five-week Summer Enrichment Scholars Program (SESP) to meet other incoming students and familiarize herself with the campus. She landed a job at the Davis Student Center that extended into the fall semester and helped expand her network and pay for college.
As a human development major, Nuñez was required to complete field work, which took her to the Sarah Holbrook Community Center in Burlington. It was there that Nuñez met two young girls from Tanzania that she says was a life-altering experience, and ignited a passion to help others.
“They relied on each other for everything – to eat, protect each other and even to hold each other accountable,” says Nunez, adding that being exposed to difficulties that people from across the world face added a new layer to her character.
Both Lasana and Nuñez continue to help students from their high school and others in need of support. When new UVM students set foot on campus, they serve as the bridge between new students and those returning students, making their transition smoother and allowing them to grow their networks. “I see LJ as a leader who will make a huge impact in many lives and will influence many more future leaders” says Lasana.
Nunez works at the undergraduate admissions office as a diversity intern welcoming new students of color. She is also a member of the Afro-Fusion Dance Team to bring cultural awareness to the UVM campus, and plans to serve as a e-mentor for CFES in New York City. “When you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, then you will be successful” says Nuñez, quoting motivational speaker, author and pastor Eric Thomas. “I want nothing more than absolute success,” she adds, “not only for myself but for everyone around me I can help.”