Islander Alumni Give Back Through New Mentorship Program

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – From learning how to succeed in class, to finding the perfect organization to join, and building a network of allies and friends, being a college student can be a challenging experience. To help students conquer these goals, the Islander Alumni Association has implemented a new mentorship program.

Established in fall 2019, the Islander Alumni Mentorship Program aids undergraduate students by connecting them with successful alumni who were once in their shoes. The program is currently in a pilot phase with 18 mentors/mentees participating.

“A mentor can share their experiences with students along with their obstacles and accomplishments,” Ed Cantu ’81, owner of Ed Cantu Insurance and Financial Services, said. “This can help the mentee to anticipate and avoid similar obstacles, leading them to accomplish their goals. After all, when one Islander succeeds, then the Island University succeeds.”

Cantu attended A&M-Corpus Christi under its former collegiate name, Corpus Christi State University (CCSU). For him, memories of undergraduate life are ones that continue to inspire.

“At CCSU, I was a 19-year-old junior surrounded by ‘non-traditional’ students. The average student was more than 10 years older than me, so it was not the usual college life you have now,” Cantu said. “I was able to learn real-world points of view from my older classmates; it was like having multiple mentors.”

In spring 2020, Maksym Tkachuk, also known as Max, was a senior electrical engineering student and Cantu’s mentee. For Tkachuk, the move to the Island University was especially challenging, as he came from thousands of miles away – his hometown in Ukraine. A mentee in the program for only a few months now, Tkachuk has already seen the benefits of having an Islander alumnus as a mentor.

“Every Islander who would like to achieve something in their life should apply for this program,” Tkachuk said. “If you are passionate or active, and want to experience something new, this program is definitely for you.”

During his time on campus, Tkachuk was the president of University Council of Student Organizations and Alpha Sigma Phi. He was also voted 2020 Homecoming King – the first international student ever to earn the title.

As his mentor, Cantu has created various off-campus networking opportunities for Tkachuk by inviting him to events including a banquet at the Art Museum of South Texas and a baseball game at Whataburger Field – Tkachuk’s first experience with the sport. Through these opportunities, Tkachuk was introduced to prominent figureheads in the community, including city council members, the mayor of Corpus Christi, and Dr. Jack Dugan, longtime University supporter and donor.

“Meeting new people is one of my favorite experiences in the program,” Tkachuk said. “They’re so open and excited to converse with a student.”

Cantu says he gets as much out of the program as he gives.

“My greatest experience has been to see things from a young person’s perspective. I loved introducing Max to fellow community leaders,” Cantu said. “Each community leader has openly and freely thanked him for choosing Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and has offered their assistance and assurances to Max.”

The Alumni Association anticipates that the mentorship program will grow each year and expand to include alumni mentors in other cities around the state and nation.