Maria Camila Prada Torres has a big name that fits her ambitious determination. While a student at Westchester Academy in Spring Branch ISD, she had big ideas about going to college, but was not sure how achieve this goal.
She got involved with Spring Branch ISD’s Collegiate Challenge mentoring program to receive help exploring higher education options and the pathways to achieving her goals. In this program, mentors from the community, as well as district staff members, are matched with college-ready juniors and seniors to assist with finding the right fit for students’ interests and work through applications for admission and scholarships.
A 2015 graduate of Westchester Academy, Prada Torres credits her Collegiate Challenge mentor, Brandin LeBlanc, with helping her through the entire college application process.
“We had conversations about what majors existed, what I wanted to do with my career, applied for scholarships and filled out the college applications,” Prada Torres said of her mentoring sessions with LeBlanc.
“But most importantly, he mentored me and made me believe that the sky is the limit, that I could be anything I wanted, and that I would be the best at it.”
When asked his about motivation for getting involved as a mentor in Collegiate Challenge, LeBlanc said, “Talent is equally distributed across all students, opportunity is not. I wanted to be a mentor to provide a more equitable experience for students. I just so happened to have Maria Camila in my group of mentees and it turned out to be incredibly meaningful to be her mentor.”
Prada Torres combined a love of art with an interest in business to earn a bachelor of science in entrepreneurial studies at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, with the help of funding provided by a presidential scholarship awarded to her by the school. Her mentor and his wife, Amanda, attended her college graduation, and Prada Torres calls him “my mentor for life!”
“I think that vulnerability and dedication to the process was important,” LeBlanc said. “The process of going to college, persisting through to completion and starting a career isn't linear, but little by little and then in bounds, Maria Camila made progress and is realizing her dreams.”
Prada Torres now works as a producer for Zeus Jones, a Minneapolis marketing agency. “I wear many hats, but to keep it simple, I help get things done and connect the dots to some of today’s most innovative projects with some of the world’s best brands,” Prada Torres said. “Tactically, this means that I manage the day-to-day of various projects.”
Spring Branch ISD is celebrating its 75th anniversary this school year and Prada Torres noted her appreciation of the legacy of excellence in the district, which gave her a foundation to achieve her professional goals. This successful Westchester alumna advises current students in the Collegiate Challenge program to be curious and know that college is a big decision that can change your path.
“Trust your mentor because he [or she] will be able to guide you through the process to the next chapter of your life,” she said.
We are #SBISDProud of all that Maria Camila Prada Torres has accomplished so far and are grateful for the confidence infused in her by Brandin LeBlanc.
Are you interested in making this kind of impact on the life of a college-focused student in Spring Branch ISD? Collegiate Challenge mentors are needed to meet with students once a week to walk them through the processes of getting to the right college. Mentor training is available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.