Gerardo Ochoa is a first-generation college graduate and Latinx immigrant, who has dedicated his career to promoting college affordability, access, and graduation. He believes in the power of personal stories to build empathy, create opportunities, and influence change. He is MENTE's president and co-founder and is committed to addressing gender inequities in higher education. He is director of community relations and special assistant to the president at Linfield College.
Efraín Rivas- Flores is a proud immigrant, a first-generation college student, and the son of farm working parents. Efraín and his family immigrated to the U.S. at age fourteen and is the only one out of six siblings who graduated from high school. Upon graduating high school at the age of 20, Efraín attended Treasure Valley Community College and transferred to Boise State University, where he received his degree in Bilingual Education and later completed his Master's Degree in Education from New Mexico State University.
Currently, Efraín directs the TRIO Talent Search Program at Portland Community College and is MENTE's vice-president and cofounder. He is working towards completing his Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Portland State University. His personal experiences have empowered him to become an educator and fight the many educational inequities that continue to affect first-generation, limited income, and underrepresented students.
José A. Esparza
José A. Esparza is a proud first-generation college graduate who has dedicated nearly 20 years of his career to helping students access and navigate higher education, as well as help colleges understand the diverse needs of Latinx, first-generation, low-income, and other underrepresented students. José, a co-founder of MENTE, is passionate about developing innovative strategies and partnerships that increase college access, as well as initiatives that boost student success.
José earned degrees from Wenatchee Valley College (AA), Washington State University (BA) and Gonzaga University (MA) and currently serves as the Director of Portland Community College’s Hillsboro Center. His lived experience has empowered him to create support systems for students that may feel like they don’t belong in college -- systems that he would have benefited from when he was a student.
Conference Committee Representative
I'm from a proud migrant farm working family. Raised in Eastern Oregon, I worked in the fields alongside my family. As a first generation college student, I graduated from Treasure Valley Community College and Oregon State University. The Gates Millennium Scholarship helped me achieve a Master's Degree in Counselor Education. I work as Director of the College Assistance Migrant Program at PCC Rock Creek, helping migrant students achieve a college education. I am proud to serve in the advancement of MENTE to empower more Latinos to understand their potential and accomplish their dreams.
I am a Xicano born and raised among the cherry orchards of The Dalles, Oregon. I started working in those orchards at the age of 12 along with my dad, younger brothers, and other migrant farmworkers seeking better opportunities for their families. After high school, I was accepted into the College Assistance Migrant Program at Oregon State University where I earned two Bachelor degrees in Spanish and Psychology. I went on to get a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Latinx Studies. My passion is to serve younger generations of Latinx youth and help them access opportunities through higher education. MENTE has been a way to bring together professionals, students, and the community to break down barriers that keep many young Latino men from reaching their dreams.
Conference Committee Representative
Carlos Sánchez Huizar is the proud son of immigrant parents, a first-generation Mexico-Americano, and passionate about community engagement. Although Sánchez Huizar claims South Central Los Angeles and Korea town as home, he also considers La Labor de Santa Barbara, a small rural town in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, as the motherland. At 21 years of age, Sánchez Huizar experienced different cultures while living in Mexico, the USA, Chile, and Spain.Sánchez Huizar attended Manual Arts High School and with the help of his high school counselor and teachers, One Voice Scholars, USC Upward Bound Math and Science program, and the Gates Millennium Scholarship, he went on to pursue a post-secondary education at Lewis & Clark College. In 2018, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic and Latin American studies. In 2020, he earned a Master of Arts in Student Affairs Administration from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling.Sánchez Huizar believes the MENTE is the definition of community organizing. He joined the MENTE team because of the efforts and the commitment to empower Latinx males through leadership, identity development, education, and economic advancement.