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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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Brenda Lazarus (left) and Joey Lucero Brenda Lazarus (left) and Joey Lucero

Aztec Mentor Program Reaches Milestone

The monumentally successful program connects SDSU students to alumni in their desired career field.
By La Monica Everett-Haynes

“It is a great experience, and SDSU alumni should take the opportunity to meet and support our future generation of professionals.”

Ever since Joey Lucero was a toddler, he knew he wanted to live close to Disney.  

The El Paso native chose San Diego State University—his “dream school”—due to its communication program, leadership opportunities and its proximity to the famed theme park. He hoped his time at SDSU would serve as the launchpad to a career at Disney, so he became highly active in service organizations and sought out mentors.

“Just like Walt coming to California with a suitcase and a dream, that was me,” said Lucero, who first visited Disneyland when he was three years old. His family has visited every summer since 2004. “I’ve lived the Disney experience all my life. Now, I want to give that to others.”

Ultimately, the Aztec Mentor Program (AMP), which pairs students with industry professionals, led Lucero to SDSU alumna Brenda Lazarus, a training manager at Disney.

Fittingly, that AMP connection led to two movie-magical moments: Lucero and Lazarus were among those who helped the program reach its 5,000th mentor-mentee pairing this fall and Lazarus helped Lucero successfully compete for the highly competitive Disneyland College Program.

"This mentorship is everything, and it has set me up for my career," Lucero said. "This is the best foot in the door for college students.”

A new SDSU tradition

AMP, a collaboration between Career Services and SDSU Alumni, was established to help students expand their professional networks early.

Lazarus, who ensures that cast members are properly trained and qualified before working in hotels or security, said she chose to participate in AMP because she believes in the power of mentorship. She also sees it as her responsibility as an SDSU graduate to support current students.

“The Aztec Mentor Program has allowed me to give back to fellow Aztecs and open myself up to others,” said Lazarus, who graduated from SDSU in 1991 with a degree in liberal studies. “It is a great experience, and SDSU alumni should take the opportunity to meet and support our future generation of professionals.”

Another important goal of AMP is to help ensure that students are career-ready the moment they are handed their SDSU degrees. By connecting with SDSU alumni and other professionals, students gain the types of insights and experiences that will make them more competitive when they enter the job market.

James Tarbox, director of SDSU Career Services said the university’s drive to boost student success by connecting students, alumni and community partners aligns well with the program and has created a culture of giving back while looking forward.

“The 5,000th match is a moment to pause and to recognize that AMP is now a tradition where commitment and collaboration ensure the ongoing success of future SDSU students,” he said.

A similar path, a similar future

Lucero and Lazarus not only hold a shared devotion to Disney, but they also share somewhat similar paths and both believe in helping people to be the best versions of themselves. Lucero has been highly active in AMP, both as a career peer at Career Services and by serving on the Student Support Commission within Associated Students. He also has been involved with Rotaract of SDSU and other Associated Students committees.

Lazarus, too, worked with Associated Students, as well as the Residence Hall Association, where she was RHA president during her last year at SDSU.

“Brenda is a very unique mentor,” Lucero said. “She is not just invested in how she can help me, but she also wants to learn about me; she wants me to grow. AMP is intended to be semester-long, but we both agree that this will be a lifelong relationship.”

Lazarus said her connection to Lucero is “very meaningful” and that she is happy to have met him.

“From the moment I met Joey, I enjoyed his energy, positive attitude and strong sense of self,” she said. “I am so thrilled that we developed an instant trust and that he took my advice to apply again for the Disney College Program at Disneyland, and I look forward to watching him grow and learn, and will also learn from him.”

Lucero encourages other students to find their home on campus and get involved with their peers, with faculty, with staff or the larger community. He also encourages students to find a dedicated mentor, and to reciprocate value in that connection.

“Getting involved has opened so many doors to so many different things for me,” he said. “I want to leave SDSU not only with a degree, which is incredibly important and valuable, but as a well-rounded student and well-rounded person.”