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Farewell and Fresh Beginnings:
My Journey from Peer Mentor to Program Coordinator

elsa graduation with hands in a U
As I sit down to write this farewell blog post, I am filled with a mix of emotions. Gratitude, nostalgia, excitement, and a bit of that inevitable nervousness that accompanies new beginnings swirl within me. Over the past few years, I have had the incredible privilege of serving as a Peer Mentor at the University of Utah Financial Wellness Center, a role that has not only shaped my career but also profoundly influenced my personal growth. As I transition into a full-time role as the next Program Coordinator at the same center, I want to take a moment to
reflect on my journey, share the invaluable lessons I have learned, and offer some advice to those stepping into the shoes I once filled.

Gratitude for the Journey
First and foremost, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside and learned from some of the most passionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable individuals in the financial counseling and higher education field. My colleagues and mentors at the center have been immensely supportive and insightful, providing guidance that transcended professional boundaries and ventured into personal development. The environment here at the University of Utah has fostered growth, innovation, and a deep sense of community, for which I am profoundly grateful.
Elsa with the team and a Union event

Key Lessons Learned
Throughout my time as a Peer Mentor at the Financial Wellness Center, I encountered a myriad of challenges and opportunities that taught me more than I could have anticipated:

1.The more you do it, the less scary it becomes:One of the most significant lessons I learned is the importance of showing up even when the task in front of me is scary or I do not feel good enough at it yet. We get good at it bydoing it more, not by waiting until we are “ready.” As a recovering perfectionist, it is uncomfortable for
me to do things that I have not mastered yet, but that is part of the job. Being a student employee at the U is a perfect place to try things we might not be comfortable doing yet. That is why we are all here, isn’t it? To learn and grow even when the task at hand is hard.

2.Financial counseling is a form of empowerment:Another critical realization was the power of 1:1 financial counseling. It is more than just budgeting and saving; it is about empowering individuals to make informed choices that align with their long-term goals and values. If I can help even one student feel less stressed while in
college, that is a win. 

3.Continuous learning:Getting to work at a university that values research and evidence-based practices has played a crucial role in my life, especially in the field of financial counseling and higher education. The FWC (Financial Wellness Center) facilitates student employees’ professional development in a way that I had never
experienced at a job, and I am grateful for that.
Elsa at a presentation

Advice for New Peer Mentors
To those just beginning their journey as Peer Mentors at the FWC, cherish this opportunity. You are in a unique position to make a significant impact on your peers' lives. Here are a few pieces of advice: 

Stay Open to New Beginnings:When I first stepped into this role, I was planning to go to PA (Physician Assistant) school after graduating. But things in my personal life took a big shift and paired with this new job working at the FWC, my plans also shifted. I ended up self-studying to become an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC). A year later, I passed the AFC exam. Be open to leaning into something that excites you, even if it does not fit into what you had originally planned for.
Know the 4 Stages of the Counseling Process:As Peer Mentors, we do not need to have all the answers, but it can be helpful to know the 4 stages of the counseling process to make your sessions run smoothly. The stages are as follows: initiate, explore, understand, and act. You can ask me about it in the office! I would love to explain it more to you!
Seek Feedback and Reflect:Always look for feedback from your mentors and colleagues. Reflect on this regularly to improve and grow in your role. 
Elsa and Jackson holding books

Looking Ahead

As I transition into the role of Program Coordinator, I am eager to take what I have learned from my experiences and apply it on a broader scale. I aim to enhance our programs, expand our reach, and continue to cultivate an environment where students feel supported in their financial wellness journeys.

To all I have worked with and learned from: thank you. Your impact on my professional journey and personal development has been immense, and I carry forward not only the knowledge you have shared but also the energy of commitment and compassion that defines our center. 

Here’s to new beginnings and the continuation of our shared mission to support student well-being and success through financial counseling, education, programming, research, and advocacy. I look forward to this next chapter with great anticipation, ready to face new challenges and achieve new goals.

Elsa in front of our sign

Go Utes!

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Last Updated: 4/29/24