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By Kathryn Wells

Photo by Monique Kuhlman

In 2003, within the halls of Jordan High School, a student named Norma embarked on an extraordinary journey. "I grew up in a low-income household and didn't consider higher education as an option until I joined CAMEO in high school," Norma reflects. For many in her community, the challenges of their environment often overshadowed the prospects of a brighter future. Norma’s aspirations for higher education seemed a distant dream, an aspiration seemingly out of reach amidst the financial hardships that marked her everyday life.

Jordan High, known for its diverse student body, was more than just a school for Norma; it was a microcosm of her world. "The program offered me mentorship, skill development, and crucial insights into navigating the journey to college," Norma explains. It was here that Norma’s path took a pivotal turn, courtesy of the CAMEO mentorship program. This initiative, spearheaded by Assistance League® of Long Beach, was designed to empower students from underserved communities like hers.

CAMEO Mentorship Program

Through CAMEO, Norma found not just academic guidance but a gateway to possibilities she had never dared to imagine. "CAMEO was the catalyst that transformed me from a hopeful student into a determined pursuer of higher education," Norma emphasizes. The program offered her mentorship, skill development, and crucial insights into navigating the journey to college. These experiences were transformative, equipping her with the tools needed to turn her ambitions into achievable goals.

The significance of such mentorship programs is profound, particularly in communities like Norma's. Data suggests that mentorship can dramatically enhance the prospects of college attendance and success for students from low-income backgrounds. 

From Mentee To Mentor

Fast forward to the present and the once uncertain high school student is now Dr. Norma Salcedo, a figure of hope and a source of inspiration in the Long Beach community. "My involvement in the program provided me with a sense of direction and support that I had previously lacked," Norma reflects. As the director of The Dream Success Center at Cal State Long Beach, she supports undocumented students, mirroring the guidance she once received at a pivotal moment in her life.

Dr. Salcedo's journey from Jordan High student to a respected leader in her community underscores a powerful truth: within our schools walk future leaders, innovators, and change-makers. Their success, often hidden in their humble beginnings, awaits the nurturing hand of a community that believes in their potential.



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