Interview with CPL Alum Estefany Gonzaga

Estefany Gonzaga was a mentee with CUNY Peer Leaders from August 2016 to June 2017, while attending Baruch College. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Business/Graphic Communication with a minor in New Media Arts. In fall of 2022, she will begin studies to pursue a Master of Arts in Digital Humanities, Digital Pedagogy at The Graduate Center. She credits CPL for encouraging her to break out of her comfort zone to blossom from a student into a young professional. She intends to learn practical methods to create an effective and holistic learning environment for students. CPL provided her tips for success, campus resources, and mentors were open to sharing their own experiences as CUNY students to support mentees. In her current role as a program coordinator at LaGuardia Community College, Estefany leans into empathy and compassion, leadership traits inspired by Mike Rifino and Lauren Melendez.

To read Estefany’s full interview, see below.

Q: What CUNY school did you graduate from/attend during CPL affiliation?

I attended Baruch College during my CPL Affiliation.

Q: Year of graduation?


Q: Preferred pronouns?


Q: Year(s) affiliated with CPL?

August 2016 – June 2017

Q: Favorite CPL memory?

I attended the AAC&U’s 2017 Diversity, Learning, and Student Success: Voices Leading Change in Jasonville, FL with Mike and Lauren. We did a poster presentation to talk about the FI program.  I also had so much fun designing the poster presentation.

Q: How did the CPL Program contribute to your academic/professional goals?

I am grateful for the FI program leaders (Lauren, Mike and Cathy) because they saw that I had skills and talents that I was too afraid to share. They allowed me to practice on my graphic design and photography skills by creating a poster presentation, flyers, book cover and some giveaway items for Cathy’s Book The New Education. For me, these opportunities were important because I was able to break through my comfort level (from student to young professional). In my current role as a program coordinator, I am always designing and creating something new with confidence, whether it’s a poster, social media post or 30 hr New SSM Training/ Professional Development for the 40 mentors I oversee. Also, Mike Rifino and Lauren Melendez were great program coordinator/supervisor role models. They lead with empathy and compassion!  

Q: Major/Minor?

  • LaGuardia Community College – Associates of Science in Business Administration 
  • Baruch College – Bachelor of Arts in Business/Graphic Communication and minor in New Media Arts 
  • The Graduate Center – Master of Arts in Digital Humanities, Digital Pedagogy (starting this Fall 2022)

Q: Current career (either path or goals)?

Currently, I am the Student Success Mentor Program Coordinator at LaGuardia Community College.
I am interested in learning how to create an effective and holistic learning environment for students for the 21st Century, especially post-pandemic.

Q: How would you describe the way in which CPL mentors and supports students?

The program provides students with support through tips for students success, campus resources, and sharing their own student experience at a particular CUNY campus.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share about CPL?

I am grateful for all the opportunities that FI program has provided to all the mentors. A CUNY-wide peer mentorship program is so important, especially now that our students have just been through a very challenging time. Our students need us more than ever! I hope that FI continues to grow and expand. Peer mentors have played a critical role in my student success, and I know that it works!


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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