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Celebrating Our 2021 Graduates: Kathy Estrella

Kathy Estrella, First Gen Longhorns

Major: Sociology, College of Liberal Arts

Hometown: Brownsville, Texas

Programs & Activities: Rapoport Scholar; Project MALES, Student Mentor; Project MALES, Student Organization Co-President; First-Generation Initiative, Student Ambassador & Committee Member; University Leadership Network Scholar; Bridging Disciplines Program; Association of Latino Professionals For America, Member

The best of the best…While finishing her last year of high school in Brownsville, Texas, Estrella had her choice of attending several different schools, but she knew UT Austin was her best pick.  “I decided to attend UT because I knew that being in Austin would offer so many opportunities that are just not available where I am from. Also, I knew the city a bit because my three older sisters attended UT, so I felt that out of any other school I was considering, UT was the best.”

Taking the lead…During her sophomore year, Estrella landed a mentorship position in the Project MALES (PM) program to fulfill the University Leadership Network’s internship requirement. Not too long after entering the program, she became more inspired in its outreach efforts with Austin-area students. “During the summer when the PM staff was brainstorming what could be done to continue mentoring at the middle and high schools, I was invited to be a part of the group and give the undergraduate mentor perspective. Currently, for the PM student organization, we are trying to gather resources like activities and tips on a canvas page to provide tools for the mentors to be successful next year.”

Finding a community…“I think the greatest benefit of Project MALES has been meeting a community on campus that share similar goals and values. I also like to attribute part of my growth to joining the program because I started to be more involved on campus and in class after mentoring for them.”

Helping her fellow first-gens…As a member of the First-Gen Longhorns Initiative, Estrella mentors  her peers who are also the first in their families to attend college. “We inform students of opportunities available on campus, scholarships, assist them by pointing them to the right resources and listen to their concerns. My role currently consists of being a student ambassador/mentor and a member of the social media team. So right now the mentors do a variety of things all at once, but that is changing a bit next year.”

Memories of a lifetime… “I would say my favorite memory has been meeting my friend Cynthia the day before school started—mostly because we laugh at how neither of us wanted to go, but at the end of the day we did and that is how we met each other while waiting in line. I think that’s how most of my good memories of UT go about. They seem accidental or just happen by chance, but they change the direction of your life without you even knowing it—and it just works out.”

The future ahead… “I planned on taking a gap year because these last few years have been stressful, but I will still be looking at universities for graduate school. I will definitely consider UT and other places out of state. But I am honestly in no hurry. I want to take my time and just think about what I really want to do.”