Back to Episode # 19

Intro  00:00
Life After Now.


Liz Bolsoni  00:07
Hello, everyone and welcome to the Life After Mow podcast. I'm your host, Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. Today, I want to introduce David Mesta. David is currently the treasurer and vice president-elect at LeadMN, a Minnesota State College student association that helps students develop leadership skills and reach their potential, and also drives community wide change. David, thank you so much for joining me today.


David Mesta  00:45
Yeah, thank you for having me.


Liz Bolsoni  00:47
Of course. Yeah. So before we dive in, I have a fun icebreaker question. And if you could think back to your high school self, and give a little bit of advice, maybe some words of affirmation, what would you say to high school David?


David Mesta  01:01
I think for high school David, not be too worried about planning your college career all the way, like what major you should have? I think you have enough time to just be in the flow in high school. And you know, eventually you'll focus on what major you want to be in.


Liz Bolsoni  01:20
Right, so where do you go to college right now?


David Mesta  01:22
So I recently graduated from South Central College.


Liz Bolsoni  01:25


David Mesta  01:27
Thank you. And I'm planning to go to Normandale College, and Minnesota State, Mankato.


Liz Bolsoni  01:34
Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got there? And maybe what impact your high school experience had on your decision for postsecondary?


David Mesta  01:42
Yeah, so I always had an interest in going to college and starting my posteducation from high school. So I decided to go to South Central College because it was closer to where I lived. And it would give me more time to branch, branch out and see what kind of major that I wanted taking general ed courses.


Liz Bolsoni  02:02
Yeah. And so from my experience, one of the first things they tell you at new student orientation, is to get involved. And there are a million different clubs on college campuses. I know for you a million wasn't enough. Right? You're so involved on your campus. So how has involvement played a role in your college experience? You know, the clubs and extracurriculars that you're in, how did that change your college experience?


David Mesta  02:29
Yeah, I think it changed my experience from just going to class and coming home. It changed it to be more like I wanted to go to campus every day. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to be more involved. I think being involved in so many clubs, I was able to meet so many friends, compared to just going to class where I would meet people, but it wouldn't be a lasting friendship.


Liz Bolsoni  02:56
But you know, that sounds like a lot to juggle. So has trying to balance everything that you you were a part of had any negative consequences on your grades or your mental health?


David Mesta  03:09
Yes, sometimes it does. Sometimes you can be too involved. And I would always recommend focus on the clubs that you really care about, and centralize on that. So like I remember, a couple of times, I would not be able to do my assignments right away, because I would be on a conference and, or I did last minute. But I think, like, sometimes like I took an accelerated course, late in, late semester, and realizing that, yeah, I can't add another course halfway through a semester, while also being busy.


Liz Bolsoni  03:43
How did you how did you balance that?


David Mesta  03:46
I balanced it by creating a calendar. That was a number one way where I can keep up what I was doing. Like when it's homework time? When is work time? Making sure my weekends are focused only on homework. And then having the day-to-day, either like classes or work stuff. And try to create a calendar, or like, creating like workflows of like, "Okay, how much time do I have to do homework? When is the due dates? Make sure everything is pinpointed when I need to do or talk to my professors."


Liz Bolsoni  04:20
So if you could David, share a little bit about something that surprised you when you were involved on your college campus. Maybe you got to go somewhere new, you met new people, things that you learned in your extracurriculars that you didn't get to learn in the classroom.


David Mesta  04:34
Yeah, so I was able to go to conferences in like northern Minnesota, the Twin Cities. I remember one time for a Men of Color conference that my colleges participate in. I was able to go down in Kansas, and meet with different students from different colleges. Also being in leadership positions, being able to like help others coordinate events, coordinate advocacy work, stuff that I didn't really It was possible going to a two-year college?


Liz Bolsoni  05:03
Oh, so if you could go into a little bit more detail about Men of Color and how the organization maybe tell you something about the impact that postsecondary education has on men of color specifically?


David Mesta  05:16
Yeah, I think, I think some of the things I learned was how basically a lot of groups would struggle going to college without having resources on campus. And so these groups of college staff would create a conference and make sure [to have] attend, a lot of BIPOC students to attend, and to teach them like financial literacy, how to navigate life, how to navigate campuses, how to become a better person, so that we can build ourselves to continue to go to college.


Liz Bolsoni  05:47
You know, Minnesota is is rich in college experiences. There are so many different types of schools in the state. And I want to hear a little bit more about how South Central or similar schools are unique from maybe four-year traditional colleges or private schools. How are they different, and why did you choose it?


David Mesta  06:09
Yeah, I think the difference is, it's smaller class sizes, and it's more closer to home. So when I go to college, I'm not driving 50, 40 minutes to class. I'm driving closer to 10 minutes. It's smaller classes, so I have more time to ask the teachers for help, especially in class. I find that it's a bigger community. So I get to know a lot of the staff members. So when I asked for help, I can always know where to go.


Liz Bolsoni  06:37
And you mentioned that you're in a lot of clubs -- or that you were before you graduated -- a lot of clubs on your campus. What are some other organizations that supported you? You are able to support a lot of people in your community, but, for example, tutoring or other support, what were you able to take advantage of on your campus?


David Mesta  06:54
Yeah, so I was able to take advantage of like, a lot of the staff members. Like because I was involved in like Student Senate, and being able to be connected with student life, it guide me to know a lot of the staff members. So I could just be like, "Hey, I want to set up a meeting to talk about like, my academic advising or talk about some financial aid." Or talk to like the social workers on like, what resources I could find.


Liz Bolsoni  07:20
So what happens if a club that you're looking for something that you're interested in, isn't on your college campus? Have you ever been able to create a club? Or do you recommend that students who don't find what they want on their campus, that they make it for themselves?


David Mesta  07:39
Yes. So during my first year of college, I, me and a couple of friends co founded a club called Rotaract. And that the focus was out on community service, finding ways to help others while also doing leadership building, with people with 20 years experience in the work life with the Rotary. So if you're interested in creating a club, definitely find a couple of friends who you know who would be interested, and then go out to the [Student] Senate to start making the club, because if there's not a club right there, you can always build one. And it could be anything you set your mind on. It could be on the environment. It could be a religious club. It could be any club that you feel like that's, that's needed, because you have an idea. As long as you have a group of friends, you can always create it, and you can find success with it.


Liz Bolsoni  08:32
You know, a lot of college is engaging with your classes and learning in the classroom. But from what I've heard from you, you've also learned a lot in your extracurriculars. In Rotaract, in LeadMN, and so much more, what skills have you gained that you feel that you can take forward in a career or just as a person in your life?


David Mesta  08:52
I think some things that I developed was teamwork, working with multiple people from different backgrounds. I think that sets me up when I go to the workforce to be able to work with different groups of people.


Liz Bolsoni  09:04
So on an earlier episode, our project manager Kat, she was saying that college has become a contentious word right? And contentious or controversial. A lot of that has to do with how people view two-year colleges. And I think in many cases, there's a myth that there's, that they're different in a bad way. Or that the four-year college experience is the only one that people should be thinking about after high school. How does your experience combat that myth?


David Mesta  09:34
Yeah, so I think my experience is the fact that like, a lot of the professors basically have the same education as a four-year college. You're getting the same learning, you're getting the same education, just like you're attending a four year college. You're not getting a lesser education. You're able to get more time to figure out what degree you want to go for. You have more time to go to class study. And sometimes it can be more rigorous than a four year college because of that expectation.


Liz Bolsoni  10:08
And another expectation of of two-year campuses is that there aren't in clubs or ways for students to be involved on campus. Campus life is something people align with a four-year private college. So, obviously, from what I've heard from you today, that's not the case, you were able to do a lot. So what do you suggest to students who are considering the college experience you had? And who want to be involved on campus like you were able to do?


David Mesta  10:37
Yeah, definitely, I think it is surprising for some who don't know that there are, actually are clubs or organizations. You can be involved in on campus. You know, the easiest way you can find is going to the Student Life section on the college website and finding what clubs are available. And that there's not a club, you can always create one and get some funding to support the club. That's what I did, as a student leader. I created my own club when there wasn't one. And I joined the club to participate and be more involved.


Liz Bolsoni  11:08
A lot of our listeners are from underrepresented groups, and maybe first generation students as well. And you as a first generation BIPOC student, what shaped your decision to go to college? What shaped your success in your college experience? Was it a lot of hard work, a supportive team, a little bit of everything? And where can our students find support to do the same?


David Mesta  11:33
Yeah, as a first generation college student, I, I was fortunate enough to have a family that supported me going to college. Understanding that I had two, I have two things that my parents expect. If I decided not to go to college, or decide to drop out of high school, it would go straight to full time work. And that's not like McDonald's, that would be straight labor. Or they'll support me if I go to college to get an education, something that my parents did not have. Both my parents came from poverty. And so they were able to rise up to have a good living, and make me be able to have that educational experience that they didn't get. Outside of that, too, is that I was able to find a supportive friend group, and able to, like, meet a lot of other people who were like, you know, supporting me on going to college. I think that's something that's really helpful. Finding a group of friends or finding a group of, if you're in high school, staff members who are like, "Here are some ways you can go to college. Here are like scholarship opportunities." Ways to help you go to college, or like, help you to get like financial aid, and other opportunities that can get you closer to getting that college degree.


Liz Bolsoni  12:45
Right. So you you made it into college. You had a great education at your institution. And then the pandemic hits. And we have such immediate instances of police brutality in our neighborhoods, in our area. And, you know, distance learning so many challenges that I know you experienced as a student as well. How is your experience been in the past year? What have you taken away that you want to remember coming out of this?


David Mesta  13:13
Yes, I think my experience being online learning only, was that making sure I created a strong foundation of organizing what I was doing. Because I would always, I would just find myself being in my room. And sometimes like, I'm trying to do homework, but then there's my TV. And I'm like, "Ooh, either homework or go on YouTube." So I had to, I had to figure that out. But I found that like, I was able to go to virtual, you know, sometimes had Zoom classes, and that was really helpful. But it was a struggle, trying to go online only without that campus interactiveness.


Liz Bolsoni  13:52
So you shared a little bit about your personal pandemic experience as a student, and our high school listeners in our college listeners also have their own personal experiences of the pandemic and being a student during this time. Do you have any parting words or advice for students who are looking at life after now, and Minnesota students who want to look forward to the future after a challenging year?


David Mesta  14:17
Yeah, I definitely think that hopefully, with a pandemic starting to come to an end, maybe, that starting to find activities to do, like start, you know, when you start going to class start interacting with people, start, you know, remembering how life before COVID was a little bit. We're just realizing now that, I'm just realizing now that traffic is becoming more active, so.


Liz Bolsoni  14:45
That's not a good thing.


David Mesta  14:48


Liz Bolsoni  14:48
That's one of those things we're not looking forward to going back to right.


David Mesta  14:51
True. But I definitely think community is the biggest thing that we can look forward to. That in person communication, or you can just hang out with a friend, meet somebody new, just randomly talking to them literally on campus, like in the lunch area, on a hallway. You know those conversations that you can't really do virtually.


Liz Bolsoni  15:10
Well, I really appreciate your time. And thanks so much for joining me sharing a little bit about your story, and your experience and your college. So it's always great to have student voices. And we hope that our listeners are really are able to connection we have student guests, so I really appreciate it. Thanks for for joining us.


David Mesta  15:29
Thank you for having me.


Liz Bolsoni  15:31
All right. Before we end here, I want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thanks so much for joining us today. This podcast is brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. I encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes on our website at Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.

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