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Quetzel Mama

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Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Alisal’s Dream Academy was fortunate enough to have author Roxanne Ocampo as a guest speaker. Mullins Theater was full with eager students who came to hear Ocampo’s advice on how to write a perfect personal statement.

Ocampo talked about students getting stuck in the no-write zone. Many students make the mistake of focusing on getting their essay to sound and look sophisticated and they do not answer the prompt. Ocampo’s technique, “Los Huesos ”or the bones, helps students identify and answer the prompt. “When you have your answers, you’ll then have the bones of your essay, your foundation, which will make it easier to continue your personal statement,” Ocampo said.

The group practiced the technique using prompts from the Common App.  The students who shared how they break down the prompt were awarded with Ocampo’s book, Nailed it, which gives the student a whole many tips on writing the perfect personal statement. The night was a huge success. Ruben Pizarro, the director of the Alisal Dream Academy, said that he was tremendously pleased with the night’s turnout. He felt like the students we very engaged with Ocampo’s presentation and felt a sense of importance since she came from out of town to speak with them.

Senior Jaqueline Ramirez, thought that Ocampo’s techniques were very helpful and wishes that she would have come sooner. Senior Jose Negrete said, “Her advice was very helpful. Right after the presentation I went home and change my whole personal statement. I am really glad I was able to discover these techniques before submitting my application.”

Ocampo, better known as Quetzal Mama, does not charge for her services because she feels the students she works with often are faced with many difficulties. She says that many people have tried to pay her to help their children, but she refuses. She only works with individuals who are low income, first generation top students, and historically unrepresented.

Ocampo started the journey as Quetzal Mama in 2010 with her children, Gabby and Carlos. Gabby, a senior at Harvard University, was accepted to Yale and Stanford and Carlos was accepted at USC and other University of California schools, but he is now studying at University of California, Santa Cruz. “After my kids got into their dream colleges I thought, “I am done, I did a good job.” However, word got out that Ocampo’s children were being accepted into the top schools in the country and soon everyone wanted Ocampo’s help, which she offered.

What is surprising is that this super mom who has so much knowledge about getting into college, did not go to college right after high school. Her brothers and sisters all went to very good schools like Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, but she did not feel the need to go to college. “Looking back, I don’t know what my mind set was at the time. I just didn’t feel like I belong. I thought I was too mature.” Ocampo says that it’s different for every student, and that you do not need to go straight into college if you feel like you are not ready. “Sometimes we wait and we marinate like a good wine,” she said.

Even though she did not go to college she was able to open her own business. “I was able to start my own company, my own consulting practice in the Bay Area, and even though I didn’t have a college degree, I read a lot and studied a lot, and I thought I’d never need one because I had a very good job.”

Years later Ocampo decided to go back to school. “I was eight months pregnant with my youngest when I walked my graduation. I had my cap and gown and I was waddling down the aisle.”  She got her Bachelors and Master’s Degrees in English from California State University, East Bay. She has written two books, Flight of a Quetzal Mama; How to Raise Latino Superstars Get them Into the Best Colleges, and Nailed it .Ocampo is currently a Doctoral student at University of California, San Diego, researching high performing Latino students and she continues to help out students.

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