Angelo Zito knew during his freshman year of high school he wanted to study engineering. In May 2017, he graduates from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biological engineering, with plans to work in the oil and gas industry.
Zito is a first-generation student from Fort Lupton, Colorado, who was introduced to the university through the Educational Talent Search and the Bridge Scholars Program, which acquaint high schoolers with the college environment.
“Coming to CSU after going through Talent Search and the Bridge Program made me feel ready in one sense and not ready at the same time,” Zito said. “I knew what I was doing, but if I ever had a question about something new, it was harder to figure out.”
But he did figure out how to deal with the rigors of college courses. After receiving his grade on his first chemistry exam, Zito sought out and took advantage of on-campus resources like the Academic Advancement Center, designed specifically for first-generation students, and The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT).
However, some of the more memorable moments of his CSU career have been things you don’t learn in the classroom, such as relationship building and conflict resolution.
“The friends I’ve made and the relationships I’ve built have helped shape who I am and how I’ll approach situations in the future,” Zito said.
The mentee becomes the mentor
Zito has taken the lessons full circle by being a peer ambassador with Talent Search and a Bridge Program mentor. Having gone through the same experience, he had a unique perspective to share with his mentees.
“I was in that leadership role, being able to model for someone who went through the same experience three years after I did,” Zito said. “It was important to me to draw a line between being my students’ friend and being their mentor at the same time. I wanted to be able to relate to them and have conversations with them. It was a great experience.”
And his students appreciated his first-hand experience as they were just beginning the chapter of their lives Zito is about to close. They asked him, “How do you do it?”
“The idea of something you want to accomplish seems huge at first, and if you look at it all at once it’s going to overwhelm you,” he told them. “What I do is live life one day at a time. You’ll get to a point where you’ve gotten so far that when you look back, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. But if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”