Finding and Prioritizing Yourself in College
by Elaine Fernandez
Voices of Making Waves: Meet Allison Cubillas
“Whatever you want to be in life, be the best you can be at it. Don’t let anyone’s opinion of who you want to be affect what you do,” shared Allison Cubillas, a Wave-Maker, first-generation college graduate from the University of California, San Diego, and proud Peruvian.
Allison said this advice from her late father drives her to this day, in her personal life and in her career.
“To me that was amazing advice,” she said. “He would say ‘If you want to make bread, open your own bakery.’ He would reference it in Spanish and say ‘Allison, si te gusta hacer panes, abre tu propia panadería.’ That quote sticks with me, and I tell my younger brother all the time.”
“In essence, he would say make your dreams and passions into a business you loved.”
Allison lost her father during her third year at UC San Diego. She shared, “I lost my purpose when I experienced the loss of my father, my best friend.”
“I became graceful with myself as everything was changing. I got lost along the way, but soon realized it is okay to find my new self and prioritize my needs and expectations with my life plans changing.”
Allison shared that Making Waves Foundation supported her academically, financially, and mentally, saying her Making Waves college coach, Ayasha Tripp, was a strong support system who reminded her of the “why” when she felt lost in her college journey.
“Ms. Tripp will always hold a close place in my heart, and I appreciate her so much,” she said.
Allison added: “Graduating debt-free relieved additional financial worries as I had another set of expenses to take care of after my dad passed away. The program took care of its students and I’m grateful.”
“I’m proud to tell people that I’m debt-free because of Making Waves,” shared Allison, who is now a performance analyst at Meketa Investment Group.
Attaining her seat at the table
“At 16, I started my first job because I wanted to treat my dad out to eat. And I did,” Allison shared.
“I valued my dad’s work ethic as he would wake up at 5 a.m. everyday to go to work. When I began working, I knew I could do more. From there, that stemmed this interest in internships as an opportunity to put myself out there.”
“In terms of seeking internships there has to be an underlying drive that someone has to have.”
Allison held an internship role at Prologis, a logistics real estate firm in San Francisco. Making Waves motivated and assisted her in the application process. “The internship was a great experience that provided me a seat at the table but it was a culture shock as I was one of the few people of color,” she said.
Reflecting on her internship experiences, Allison shared: “Internships are an opportunity to learn how to present oneself, network, advocate for yourself within the industry and own who you are in the process.”
From college graduation to full-time job
After Prologis, Allison applied to Meketa Investment Group as an investment operations intern, which led to a full-time role. “Meketa has been a good company to work for and I think that it’s a stepping stone for my career. It’s taught me the foundation and skill set that I will need to move on to a higher-level position,” she said.
“Maketa offered the stability I needed right after college. I will never forget the first time I got my full-time offer letter.”
Moving forward, Allison shared, “I would like to continue my studies and pursue an MBA along with additional certifications. My end goal would be to have my own company but for now, I will work my way to becoming a consultant for Black-owned and Latino-owned businesses.”
“I would love to speak Spanish more frequently in my general workday, breaking down language barriers that limit communities.”
Balancing academics and wellbeing
Allison applauds Making Waves for being her accountability partner during college and for providing the coaching program as a support system.
“I had initially planned to double major in college. I had the application ready to submit when the pandemic occurred and my life did a whole 360,” she said.
“When my dad got sick during the quarter, I didn’t know who to reach out too. Would my school care? I spoke with Ms. Tripp and she recommended I go to my college’s advising office and ask if I could take my finals at another time. She advised me that if I need to take a break, I should give myself some grace to take the time off to focus on what’s going on in my personal life.”
“My college expectations were more than getting good grades. Ms. Tripp always reminded me to emphasize wellbeing while in college. Both play a pivotal role in my success.”
Based on what she has learned, Allison shared, “The first job you get after college does not have to be your last and final job. Jobs are meant to be your trial and error process as you can come to discover what you want to be, what type of support you need from your company, and if you are being valued as an employee.”
“I strongly believe people can combine their passion with their work and I am still on the search to find my right fit.”
“Change is a process of life that pops out at you when you least expect it. The 10-year plan you meticulously planned, no longer will work. Therefore, I changed my approach by having short-term plans instead. They are more achievable and if they don’t work out, the thought of it not working out does not hurt at much. Change is good but it’s the way we react to it that determines our next steps.”
Feeling extremely proud to call herself a Wave-Maker alumni, Allison shared, “I appreciate being considered for an article as I was able to tell a small portion of my story.”
“It was a full circle moment as I reflected on a journey I didn’t believe I would get through. Thank you.”
This Voices of Making Waves storytelling series spotlights the voices and journeys of the students, alumni, teachers, coaches, and more members of our Making Waves Foundation and Making Waves Academy communities — and highlights our work in creating educational opportunities that change lives.
ABOUT MAKING WAVES FOUNDATION
With a unique focus on college attendance and graduation, Making Waves Foundation supports historically underrepresented and underserved students in pursuing their dreams. Making Waves Academy is a public charter school in Richmond, California, educating early 1,200 students and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, provides coaching, scholarships, financial literacy, and career support for more than 500 college students as well as a network for more than 600 Wave-Maker alumni.
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