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Alumnus Mentors First-Year Student from Dominican Republic

Alberto Mateos and Omar Castro
Alberto Mateos '21 (left), Omar Castro '25 (right)

Omar Castro ’25 and his mentor, alumnus Alberto Mateos ’21, were the first in their families to attend college.

When York College of Pennsylvania Business Administration major Omar Castro moved to the United States five years ago from the Dominican Republic, he couldn’t speak English. His York City-based elementary school offered an English language course for only one hour a day. The 13-year-old struggled to adjust to life in Pennsylvania.

“The first year I moved here, every day I wanted to go back home,” he says.

Learning the Language

Omar pushed through, spending his first summer here studying English. Throughout high school, he stayed after school for hours, translating his homework from English into Spanish, then back into English. By his second year in the United States, he had a good grasp of the language.

“I wanted to speak for myself,” he says. “I didn’t want to be limited.”

After graduation, Omar knew he wanted to pursue higher education. Through the York College Community Opportunity Scholarship Program (YCCOSP), Omar’s tuition, fees, and room and board is paid for four years. If not for YCCOSP, Omar would have otherwise not attended higher education. He became the first member of his family to go to college.

Connecting with a Mentor

Without having family members who experienced college for support, Omar often felt alone trying to figure out what many students take for granted. He had to learn time management, how to study, and how to read academic material. It was a struggle Omar’s mentor, Alberto Mateos ’21, was familiar with and knew how to overcome. He would help Omar reach his goals.

Mateos was born and raised in Gettysburg to Hispanic parents. Throughout school, he was more focused on sports than academics. Once he hit high school, though, Mateos decided he wanted a better future.

In the spring of his junior year of high school, Mateos attended a York College open house. He came in a three-piece suit with a fresh haircut, ready to tell his story and learn all he needed to know to enroll. Daniel Green, former Vice President of Enrollment Management at York College, took him aside and helped him make the necessary connections.

“I felt comfortable in that atmosphere,” Mateos says. “Everyone was very kind. I went on other college tours, and they just looked at me like a number. At York College, they took their time and walked me through all the information that I needed.”

Throughout the fall and spring of his senior year of high school, Mateos applied for over 20 scholarships and was awarded at least 15 of them. That spring, he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

During his York College career and after earning his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, he made an effort to regularly give back to the College, including helping at open houses. Green knew the graduate had a lot of advice to offer Omar.

According to Mateos, Green told him, “I’m going to leave you with one more task.” He asked him to mentor Omar, and said, “He has the same energy as you but is a little bit taller.”

During one of his first meetings with Omar, Mateos introduced him to the president of York College and several Business Office staffers. By the end of those sessions, Omar had met in one day a group of people that it had taken Mateos four years to connect with.

“These people don’t know you by a number,” Mateos says of the professors and staff. “They care for you, and they actually call you by your first name.”

Mateos, who is a real estate agent with Keller Williams Keystone Realty in Hanover, Pennsylvania, encourages students like Omar, who are the first in their families to go to college, to be proactive about what they want and never give up.

“You put yourself into this situation already. You already filled out all the paperwork. If you’re going to do it, do it right,” he says. “Every day is not a positive day. You’ll have those days where you don’t want to do anything. You just have to keep a positive mindset.”

For Omar, the words of advice have rung true.

“Never give up,” he says. “Even when times get difficult, there’s going to be a light at the end."