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Howling Success

Howling Success: Sebastian Rios

This month’s Howling Success has mentored Latinx high school students, helped plan statewide and national conferences and more for NC State’s Juntos program.

Sebastian Rios holds a white sign that reads "Juntos" in handwritten green letters and a red, black and white pennant that reads "Howling Success" in the other hand

Earlier this year, Sebastian Rios (Criminology ’23) was charged with planning a project for more than 60 Latinx youth attending the Juntos National Convening held at Oregon State University. At first it seemed daunting, but he found inspiration from his work-study colleagues at NC State and in the meaning of the word Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish. 

So, he decided to have the students work together to form a new vision statement for the organization in honor of its 15th anniversary.

“We had students coming from all the different states with different experiences, and some of them were even brand new to Juntos,” Rios said. “We brought them together and had a bunch of different events, icebreakers and different lessons about what a vision statement is. We gave them sort of an outline to get started, and by the end of it they had the opportunity to vote on their favorites and then present them to all the other attendees. There were so many student connections, and it was such an exciting experience for them.”

This is just one of many ways Rios has helped empower Latinx youth through the Juntos program at NC State. As a work-study student and program assistant, he mentors a high school sophomore and a senior who was recently accepted to NC State. He also works with Juntos coordinators in high schools across North Carolina to plan events like family nights, FAFSA workshops and more. 

Five people stand in front of a large black sign for Oregon State University
Rios and his Juntos colleagues at Oregon State University, site of the 2023 National Convening

Rios is so passionate about Juntos because he received similar help as a high school student through a college access program at UNC-Chapel Hill. As a first-generation college student and member of the Latinx community himself, he can relate to the obstacles many students and their families face when applying for college.

“Working with Juntos has given me the opportunity to open my network and collaborate with a team,” he said. “It’s been the ideal work experience because I’ve always enjoyed working with students, but I’m also able to help them prepare for college and learn about different scholarships and careers.”

Rios and three other people stand outside and hold a large green banner that reads "Together for a better education."
Rios and his fellow Juntos officemates hold a large banner for the program

Outside of the office, Rios has served as a team captain for the Juntos Summer Academy at NC State for the past two years, leading a group of middle and high school students through the week’s activities. The academy was held virtually his first year, and while he enjoyed the experience, the in-person event last year was far more impactful because he got to spend time with students outside of scheduled activities.

“It really reminded me of why I love this kind of work and why it makes me happy,” Rios said. “It’s really impactful when you take the time to connect with the students and learn more about them. At Summer Academy, we’re always going somewhere or doing some activity, but if you take the chance to sit down with a student it’s really cool just to hear about their experiences and relate to them.”

Most recently, Rios has been helping to plan the 2023 Summer Academy, which is shaping up to be the highest-attended yet. In addition to event planning, he has been recruiting and helping to train team captains.

Rios poses with a large group of other Juntos team captains outside of Talley Student Union
Rios poses with other Juntos team captains outside of Talley Student Union during the 2022 Juntos Summer Academy

Rios was nominated as a Howling Success by Lucia Planchon, assistant director for Juntos NC State and his supervisor.

“I nominated him because his work ethic with Juntos has been exemplary, and he has been a huge part of ensuring the success of Juntos on various levels since he joined us,” Planchon said. “Sebastian is a mentor and a role model to our high school youth, which he displayed in his leadership during our National Juntos Convening at Oregon State University this year. He is also incredibly involved with the Latinx community in and out of school as he volunteers with several organizations. We love having him on our team and are so proud of him!”

After earning his undergraduate degree in criminology this month, Rios plans to secure a job or internship. He knows he wants to continue helping Latinx youth wherever his career takes him.

“It’s very fulfilling to me to see the students I work with getting into college and celebrating their accomplishments, and it’s cool to be recognized for the part that I’ve played in that,” Rios said. “As a Latino, representation is important too, and I hope that another student sees this and is inspired to do something they are passionate about.”

The Howling Success award recognizes undergraduate students for their outstanding work in campus leadership, community service and other areas in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. If you know someone you consider a Howling Success, nominate them here: