December 21, 2016
Alvaro Castillo has always been passionate about writing; now he’s hoping to inspire others with his words.
“When I graduated high school I had no idea that California State University, Northridge existed just seven miles from my house,” Alvaro Castillo says.
Now a graduate student, he’s hoping to help others find inspiration, education and direction through his writing.
Alvaro says his father, who dropped out of school after sixth grade, first inspired his passion for writing.
“My dad worked nights, and he cared for me while my mom worked during the day,” Alvaro says. “[Because of his limited formal education] my dad found a lot of importance in reading, so our bonding time was going to the library.”
As Alvaro got older, writing became a way to express his experiences as and feelings about being a minority. He had emigrated with his parents from Mexico at age 3, leaving behind three older sisters and three older brothers.
“Growing up in Provo, Utah, more often than not I was the only brown-eyed Latino,” he says.
As a high school student, Alvaro was more interested in music and popular culture than school, but he always enrolled in honors English classes. It was a girlfriend who pushed him to pursue higher education. After graduating high school, he enrolled in the Pierce College Summer Bridge program.
“I had to go from being that student who didn’t really care to engaging,” he says. “I took it upon myself to learn the system.”
After earning an associate degree at Mission College and transferring to CSUN, Alvaro pushed himself even further. As an English (creative writing) major he was hired as part of group of interns tasked with helping to establish CSUN’s DREAM Center.
“Ours was the first DREAM Center that was approved in the California State University system,” he says. “It was exciting to work with undocumented students, and it gave me a chance to see that I wasn’t the only student in that circumstance.”
Alvaro himself qualifies for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
Later, he took a job tutoring at the Learning Resource Center, and a second internship with the College of Humanities, learning the responsibilities of a professional grant writer.
“[Working on campus] allowed me to stop working odd jobs in landscaping and construction,” he says. “It always felt like I was cheating myself [by not gaining more professional experience].”
CSUN also provided Alvaro with an opportunity for personal enrichment and inspiration for his writing. Last year he participated in a study abroad program in Mexico, which gave him the opportunity to finally meet the family members who he had left behind.
“It was really impactful and made me question, ‘Where is home? What does home even mean?’” Alvaro says.
Now an English (creative writing) master’s student, he’s continuing to grow. As a student assistant in the Office of Student Success Innovations he helps develop events and programming materials designed to improve educational opportunities and graduation rates for underserved students.
“At the end of the day, I know the work I’m doing will benefit students like me,” he says.