The Lumberjack student newspaper
Criminology and Justic Studies seniors, Belen Gutierrez and Ashleigh DeFraga, are sociology peer mentors who have also volunteered with YES! since freshman year. | Photo by T.William Wallin

Student spotlight

Sociology peer mentors shine with YES and help students

Sociology peer mentors shine with Youth Educational Services and help students

News editor, T. William Wallin sat down with Ashleigh DeFraga and Belen Gutierrez during separate interviews for a Q&A.

DeFraga and Gutierrez are seniors in the criminology and justice studies program at HSU. They are peer mentors for the sociology department and can usually be seen helping out a student in the business of social sciences building. They volunteer with YES and are very involved with the community. They both are pursuing law degrees and want to become lawyers after graduation.


DeFraga: I am studying Criminology and Justice studies major, with a double minor in psychology and Philosophy

Gutierrez: Criminology and Justice studies with the minor in comparative ethnic studies


DeFraga: I love all aspects of the criminal justice system. Our school has a unique program and since day one I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I chose psychology because I am interested in how the brain works. I am minoring in the philosophy of ethics, which we talk a lot about ethical dilemmas that get brought up in criminal justice such as rape, or voluntary suicide. Taking philosophy will help me with questions that will be on the bar exam and the LSAT.

Gutierrez: I interned at a law firm in high school and I knew I wanted to do law when I graduated but I didn’t want to do the traditional political science. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I was more interested in the criminal justice aspect of it. I started learning about intersexuality in high school and that drew me in having a minor in comparative ethnic studies.


DeFraga: I came from Sacramento. I came straight from high school and enrolled at HSU in August of 2016. I have been taking 20-22 units each semester to graduate sooner because I don’t get financial aid. I did get some scholarships but I wanted to get done as fast as possible.

Gutierrez: Orange County, Santa Ana, in particular, Southern California. I came straight from high school. I graduated in 2015.


DeFraga: I go day by day. You can’t go each day and think past that because then it’ll be overwhelming. I have a google calendar, a wall calendar and a million sticky notes everywhere. I’m really organized.

Gutierrez: My mom is really good with time-management and I really just inherited her skills a little bit. I really try to think about what I’m taking on and how that is going to fit in with my schedule. I know my limits and I try to stick to them. But google calendar and a planner is your friend.


DeFraga: Straight to Law School. I’m going to go to Pepperdine in LA. It’s a private school with lots of scholarships and I love the area its in. It’s smaller than Harvard and I think it’s best for me to thrive.

Gutierrez: I’m taking a year off and then going to law school. My top schools right now are Berkeley and I got a full-time offer for Chapman Law. I’m debating that because I want to go to the bay so I’m not sure if I’m willing to relocate to So-Cal but we’ll see. Berkeley is number 1. They have a Ph.D. program on social well-being so you can do a program to get your Ph.D. in social justice and also your law degree which is what I’m really interested in doing.


DeFraga: I am most passionate about juvenile kids. They need help, it’s not their fault when they get in trouble. I want to make a difference in the juvenile justice system. Kids are important and not enough people are making an effort with them.

Gutierrez: I think definitely collaborating with communities that are oppressed and striving for social justice.


DeFraga: My favorite experience is all in all the environment. I think the environment has shaped every aspect of my experience. Everyone is super genuine. The JRVP program has been one of my favorite experience up here.

Gutierrez: Definitely volunteering with YES. I started volunteering as a freshman through the step-up program which is HSU’s alternative spring break. That’s where we went to San Francisco to volunteer for spring break, and then when I was a sophomore I directed the program myself and planned the Sacramento trip. My junior trip I applied to be one of the five paid staff positions and I got it. This year I applied to be the lead program consultant and I love it. I love YES and I think if it weren’t for YES I would have transferred out of HSU because it’s so isolated. I think finding a community is really important and I found it at YES. That has definitely been my favorite part so far at HSU.


DeFraga: Be brave. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be scared to not know something, just ask and be comfortable in your own skin.

Gutierrez: Definitely, get involved. Maybe not your first semester if you want to get a taste of college and what classes are like as a full-time student and how you fit in because that’s the time to dip in your toes and see what you want to be involved with.


DeFraga: Michihiro Clark Sugata.

Gutierrez: Wow, I’ve had so many. I think so far it’s been Nancy Perez. She just got hired through the CRGS department and I took Chicana/Latinx with her last semester. I really like the structure of the class and how she gave us assignments I never had before and so she was really relaxed with what we could do. One of the assignments was to write a children’s book and what stood out for me was to write a children’s book that you wish you had when growing up. I really liked it and I wrote a book about my experiences growing with a message I would have liked to see growing up. That really stood out for me and that has made her one of my favorite professors. She really thinks outside the box and giving us assignments that were challenging because you think you can write a children’s book no problem but really it’s a lot more than that. It’s a lot deeper than that and there’s a lot of thinking that goes into it like ‘how can I put a message into it in a way that a 5-year-old or whoever is reading it will understand it.’ That’s why she’s my favorite professor.


DeFraga: It’s pretty awesome getting to go into the Juvenile hall and work with the kids there. They are honestly just normal kids we have just labeled them as bad or delinquent! I think that the best part is being able to see that they are just kids, not criminals! To be able to just hang out with them and show them a positive example is a small way in which each and every one of us can help them. I’ve been working with them since my freshman year! It also makes you feel like your life isn’t so bad in retrospective to theirs. Putting yourself in their shoes and looking at the intersectionality that goes along with it!


Gutierrez: It’s really rewarding in several aspects. It’s not just going out into the community that’s rewarding, it’s also all the skills I have learned that I didn’t even know I had, such as facilitating meetings and learning people’s first language and how there’s a savior complex when volunteering and how YES is striving more towards collaborating with communities instead of really just going in and serving them. It’s more like we’re here if you need us and what is it you would like from us instead of going in and being like we’re here to do this for you. So I think that’s what I really fell in love with YES, there really striving to make those changes.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination