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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Meet the Mentors

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Meet the Mentors!


Pang Nhia Thao

Senior Mentor/Team LeaderPang Thao

Hometown: Saint Paul, MN

Major: Social Work   

Family Background: I come from a low-income. Hmong family of nine. As my parents never went went to college, I take this opportunity as a chance to strive and succeed. I want to be a role model for my family and siblings; show them achievement can be reachable.

Plans for after Graduation: After graduation, I plan to find a job in the social services field. I want to be able to work as a government social worker ans assist individuals in need. 

Advice for first-year students: Impromptu! Being able to get something done without being planned or organized will be necessary in life. Although it may be best to have something organized and scheduled, everything may not always go as planned. This means you have to learn how to think on your feet.

Why I chose to be a peer mentor: I have attended Minnesota State University, Mankato for the past three years, going towards my fourth. I love Mankato, and I love Mankato's diversity. Mankato provides various majors, programs, services, etc. I want to be able to guide and mentor students as they go through similar experiences in Mankato too. I would like Mankato to be a welcoming home for new students and hopefully show them that they are accepted in Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Why students should have a peer mentor: Assimilating to college may be hard for students. Moving into college provides students independence and a chance to grow as individuals. It teaches students responsibilities that can be hard adjusting to: weird class schedules, time management, work, participation in the community, etc. As a student who have experience these changes, I can provide advice and guide them to available services they can utilize.

What I like about SSS: I love the free things! Free tutoring. Free printing. Free equipment check outs (calculators, laptops). Free school supplies. Free grants I can apply for. Free friends. Free, but limited play tickets. Free peers and friends. Free advising. Free foods. There are tons of free things, it only depends on whether or not SSS students utilize all these resources.

Fun fact: I enjoy squirrel watching.


Jaime Jose Esqueda Jr.

Publicity & Communications MentorJaime Esqueda

Hometown: Pomona, CA but spent most of my childhood in Southern Minnesota

Major: Communications Major with a double minor in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Marketing

Family Background: I was raised by a single mother. I am the oldest of all of my siblings and also only 2nd generation in America. Family is a huge aspect of my life and I use that as motivation to push me to become the best I can be.

Plan for after Graduation: After graduation I plan on getting my realty license to pay off my loans and then save up enough money to invest in my own small business.

Advice for first-year students: Get involved early! There are so many different clubs and groups on campus, I promise you that there is something here for everyone. College is a time to figure out who you are in this world and there is no better way than surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who enjoy the same activities as you.

Why I chose to be a peer mentor: I wish I had someone who would have been proactive in checking in on me, ensuring all of my questions were answered or just being there for me to talk to when I was a freshman. So the least I can do now is be what I wish I had back then.

Why students should have a peer mentor: As upperclassmen we have lived almost anything you will experience as a freshman. So we are here to help ease the transition between leaving the nest and creating your future.

What I like about SSS: What I LOVE about SSS is the atmosphere and the way that they open their doors to students to make them feel safe.

FUN fact: I have climbed Half Dome Mountain in the Yosemite National Forrest three times.


Bella Lam

Lead Activities & Event PlannerBella Lam     

Hometown: Farmington, MN. Born in Vietnam.

Major: Community Health Education with a Communications Minor

Family background: My whole family came from Vietnam and I am a first-generation student.

Plans for after Graduation: Find a career in the health field and maybe start a business, teach yoga, travel ALOT, move back to the twin cities and see where life takes me.

Advice for first-year students: Let go of limiting beliefs and know that everything will be truly okay.
"Everything seems impossible until it's done" -Nelson Mandela

Why I chose to be a peer mentor: Being a 3rd year student who's been actively involved on campus ans still staying academically and socially successful, I feel that I have a lot to share with others and be a good resource.

Why students should have a peer mentor: Having a peer mentor means you have someone who will be there for you academically and socially. You have a well qualified upperclassman who will dedicate his/her time to you for your own success and well being, so why not?

What I like about SSS: I love the amount of resources and attention given to each and every student. We are helped on a one on one basis and on campus, it's sometimes difficult to find that help.

Fun fact: I have a dog name Opie that I am obsessed with!!!!


Denice Perez

Activities & Event PlannerDenice Perez

Hometown:  Shakopee, MN

Major: Mass Media with Communication Studies minor

Family Background: Hispanic

Plans for after Graduation: Try to have a job in my field, move out of Minnesota and go to a different state.

Advice for first-year students: Don't be afraid to be out of your comfort zone. Join organizations, meet new people. Maybe TRIO can be your start.

Why I chose to be a peer mentor: My experience with my peer mentor when I started with TRIO was so amazing, that it helped me with a lot through my transition to college as a first generation student. I want to give back by helping someone too.

Why students should have a peer mentor: Mentors are here to help you out. It is your decision, but it will be nice to have someone there who wants to listen ans see how you are doing as a new student to MSU.

What I like about SSS: 

Fun fact: I have a love/hate relationship with my pit bull named Duke.


Halima Dakane

Activities & Event PlannerHalima Dakane

Hometown: Faribault, MN

Major: Social Work

Family Background: I come from a working class family background. I was raised by single mother, who had worked hard to give me and my siblings a better life. I considered myself fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue a higher education. Since I am the first person in my family to go to college, I want to set a good example for my younger siblings that they can also pursue any career and accomplish it. I believe that anyone can accomplish anything as long as they put effort and determination.

Plan for after Graduation: After I graduate, I plan to find a job in my field of study (Social Work). I want to work with the county social services or in schools.

Advice for first-year students: My advice for first year students is to have a purpose in whatever you are doing, prioritize what is most important to you. Also, have good time management and organizing skills are a huge part of being a successful student in college, as well as in life.

Why I chose to be a peer mentor: Throughout my college experience, I had mentors who guided and helped me with various things. I want to do the same for the other students. First generation and low income students can encounter various challenges; I hope to help out whenever needed. I hope to be a support system that they can count on.

Why students should have a peer mentor: I believe that every student needs a supportive and compassionate mentor, someone who guides them, advises them, and be a good support system. Although moving into college is an exciting time that gives students the opportunity to become independent and grow as individuals, it also comes with challenges. All of a sudden, students are expected to be responsible and adapt to a new environment. A peer mentor can help them adjust to their new environment. A peer mentor can help them adjust to their new environment, help them utilize resources that are available at MSU, provide feedback/advise whenever needed, and help them network with other student organizations.

What I like about SSS: I love the fact that SSS has many resources for TRIO students including an advisor, free printing, tutoring, mentor, computer, calculator, events, foods, and other school supplies.

FUN fact: I am the oldest in my family and I love watching Devious Maids!