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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Peer helps students with educational, personal struggles

Alejandro Gonzalez Valle
City College student Norma Cervantes Gonzalez poses at the ESL Building on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Cervantes is active in the community and works as a peer advisor for ESL students.

Happy, humble, helpful— these are just a few of the words friends and colleagues use to describe student and English as a Second Language peer advisor Norma Cervantes Gonzalez.

Gonzalez excelled as a student in the ESL program and now works as a peer advisor for the Peer Advising for Student Success Program, offering advice and resources to struggling students both in school and personal matters.

“I’m helping other people, and that helps me too,” Gonzalez said about her work in the program.

She speaks with a warm and personable tone, making it is easy to understand why staff and students are so impressed by her.

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Gonzalez was awarded the Peter Alevra Award this year because of her active role in the community. The award is given to students who contribute to campus activities that help to “create a sense of community within diversity.”

Marit Ter Mate-Martinsen, a professor in the ESL program, said it was a “no-brainer” to nominate her for this award.  

“For her, life is about helping other people,” Martinsen said. “She’s such a humble person, but she is so incredibly capable.”

As a peer advisor, Gonzalez is close to the daily struggles ESL students go through while balancing their work and school life. Many of them work during the day, making the process of learning a new language even harder.

Gonzalez said that her passion for giving back to the community is inspired by her mother, an activist and women’s rights advocate in Mexico. Growing up near Guadalajara, Gonzalez was inspired by her mother’s role in the community providing aid for women, especially victims of domestic violence.

Aside from the program, Gonzalez also works with her aunt to offer assistance and advice to women in the community who are not proficient in English, helping them understand and fill out legal documents and forms. She also serves the homeless, bringing blankets and food during the holidays.

Gonzalez is a studio art major and dreams of one day opening her own gallery to sell her and others work. Her peer advisor college Fernanda Hernandez described her as “really, really artistic in every way” and commended Gonzalez for using her art to benefit the ESL department by creating flyers for programs and events.

Additionally, Gonzalez helps run the City College ESL social media pages.

After being a big part of the City College English as a Second Language Program for years, Gonzalez is looking to transfer to UCSB next fall to further her dream of majoring in art.

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