If there's one thing Amy Weaver believes in, it's the power of mentorship.
The San Jacinto College alumna's mentoring relationship with a former professor has spanned almost 25 years and shaped her career trajectory.
Now working as an accreditation coordinator for the College, Weaver not only continues to connect with her longtime advisor but pays it forward as a 1st Gen mentor.
Lost and found
In her late teens and early 20s, Weaver needed direction. Before San Jac, she had already attended one community college and two universities, dropping out of each for different reasons — feeling homesick, getting married, and being swallowed up in classes with 200-plus students.
"I threw my hands up in surrender, telling myself college just wasn't for me," she said.
When she landed in Houston in 1995, she discovered working a minimum-wage job without benefits was not happily ever after. A San Jac TV ad caught her eye, and she decided to make it through college for once. A small campus with a low student/teacher ratio seemed like the place to start.
Weaver pursued an associate degree in business administration at the South Campus. In a business law class, professor Dr. Shari Goldstein zeroed in on the student who doubted herself, despite coming from a family of lawyers and judges. Goldstein spied her potential.
"She pushed me to raise my own bar of expectation," Weaver said.
She started staying after class, digging deeper, asking Goldstein questions about law and case studies they were examining. It was only time before an informal mentorship started.
"Sometimes we just all need a safe environment and a good listener to express ourselves and work through the challenges life presents us," Goldstein said.
Both working and attending school full time for the first time, Weaver welcomed the free advice. When a flyer turned up about a NASA business office co-op, Goldstein not only encouraged her to apply but also helped her plan a class, study, and work schedule that would accommodate family time.
"Dr. Goldstein has encouraged me from the very beginning of our relationship that I was smart enough and capable enough to achieve any of my dreams," Weaver said.
Hello, alma mater
After graduating from San Jac and enrolling at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Weaver landed another co-op with NASA contractor United Space Alliance. After she earned her bachelor's, United Space Alliance offered her a full-time position working with the space shuttle program. During her 10 years with the contractor, she also earned her master's.
When the shuttle program ended, Weaver moved to another contractor, then was cut as part of widespread aerospace layoffs. Roads eventually led back to the South Campus in 2015, when she became a division operations coordinator in the School of Business and Technology.
In a division meeting, Weaver ran into Goldstein. As luck would have it, they were now working under the same dean. Soon Goldstein donned her mentor hat again, guiding her through the bumpy transition from corporate work to higher education.
"She helped to mold me into my new role and once again encouraged me to achieve my best," Weaver said.
1st Gen mentor
With school and workforce experience under her belt, Weaver wanted to pay it forward as a mentor herself. This opportunity presented itself during a student social on the lawn, where she learned about the 1st Gen Club.
This mentoring program connects first-generation college students (those whose parents do not have at least a two-year degree) with a faculty or staff member to support them as long as they need while at San Jac.
Weaver typically mentors one student a semester, meeting a few times during the first two months and joining student lunch meetings.
"I assist my mentees with resumes, job interview prep, and learning how to schedule their time to balance work, life, and school," she said. "I get to be a life coach and an educational advocate."
She also links her mentees to helpful resources like tutoring and food markets. When COVID-19 moved classes online this spring, Weaver called her mentee to check in and listen.
Up until the pandemic, Weaver and Goldstein met for lunch or after work several times a semester. Now they continue to connect through email or phone.
"We support, encourage, and re-energize each other in our positions as employees," Goldstein said. "We all need others to journey with us as we navigate our educational pursuits and careers."
Weaver champions the power of relationships. She encourages students to get involved, meet people, and make friends. After all, a longtime friendship led her to move beyond a minimum-wage job, earn three degrees, and mentor others.
"Look at my life," she said. "You never know when you'll go full circle. Having a friendly face in the crowd — someone you knew 'back then' — can make the difference between isolation and participation."
To learn more about 1st Gen, visit sanjac.edu/campus-life/students/1st-gen-students.