Evelyn Luna: From DREAMer Student to SBVC Counselor

Evelyn Luna knows what it's like to walk in her students' shoes. As a San Bernardino Valley College counselor, Luna works with current and former foster youth enrolled in the Guardian Scholars program as well as DREAMers. Many of these individuals have a background similar to hers: in 1996, she came to the United States from Guatemala as an undocumented immigrant.

"I feel like I am making a difference and the students can connect with me and know that I went through something similar," Luna said. "It's about what I can give to the students, not about what I can get. I never imagined I'd also have the opportunity to work with foster youth; it's amazing that they are here after everything they've gone through."

It took years of hard work for Luna to get to where she is today. When she enrolled in college, she wasn't eligible for financial aid, and had to work 50 hours a week as a full-time student in order to pay her tuition. To get to class, she rode the bus from Pomona to California State University, Fullerton, which took hours and had multiple stops.

"There were times when I thought, 'What am I going to do?'" she said. "I wasn't documented at the time, and was working under the table with whatever jobs I could find, and I wondered, 'How am I going to pay for this?' I told myself no, I am not giving up, I want to succeed. Everyone in my family was educated in Guatemala, and I wanted to succeed for my grandpa and grandma. It was hard, sometimes I had to get on the bus at 5 a.m. and I was always working, but I finished. I am here to support our students, and want them to know if I could do it, they can do it, too."

After earning her bachelor's degree at Cal State Fullerton, Luna got married and became a citizen, and said she told herself, "Nothing is going to stop me now." She received her master's degree from the University of Redlands, and prior to coming to SBVC, was an academic adviser at University of California, Riverside. However, Luna always knew she wanted to work at a community college.

"I went to community college at Mt. San Antonio, and the treatment I got from my counselor made an impact on my life and I knew that's what I wanted to do," she said. "My heart is in community college."

Luna said she works with a "very unique student population," and her days are busy with everything from counseling appointments to workshops for students.

"Every day is something new," Luna said. "We have so many resources available, and sometimes students don't even know that we are here, but once we get them into the office, I will help them from day one to when they walk across the stage at graduation."

Luna lives in Perris with her family, including her two-year-old daughter, and is active in her church and doing community service in Moreno Valley. Before her daughter was born, Luna was accepted to a doctoral program and she hopes to start next year, but nothing will get in the way of her helping the DREAMers and foster youth on campus.

"I love this opportunity," she said. "I am so blessed to work with these groups, and my heart is for them. I never imagined I would be able to do this, and my dream came true. I'm here to help them, and want them to hear my story. They will know I went through a lot and it wasn't easy, but with the resources we have, I am here to help them and will support them with anything they need."