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Filiberto Bencomo
Helping students thrive inspires
Fily Bencomo

In his role coordinating Latino programs, Filiberto “Fily” Bencomo helps Hispanic students successfully transition to college and gain an education.

Bencomo oversees three RCC Latino programs: the Oregon Leadership Institute, Club Latino, and HOLA (Helping Oregon Latinos Advance).

RCC student Rocky Cazares recalls how he was anxious and insecure when he first arrived at Rogue. But Bencomo mentored and encouraged Cazares, who has gone on to become the current president of Club Latino. Cazares credits Bencomo with helping him succeed in college and life.

“He’s been kind of a father figure and role model; he’s really supportive,” Cazares said. “I can talk about anything and about my problems. He’s very cool and has a big heart. He’s such a good person.”

Bencomo points out how studies have shown that students who have a good relationship with a school staff person or teacher have a better chance at being successful in school. “When I first came to the U.S. and was an ESL student, I had bilingual teachers who helped me. But I had friends who didn’t get help, and they didn’t make it in school. Without that support I wouldn’t be here.

“My biggest joy working for RCC is knowing that I can make a difference in some of the students’ lives,” he said. “I really want to help students succeed.”

Bencomo graduated from South Medford High School in 2003. He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in health promotion and fitness management at Southern Oregon University, where he’s completing his MBA.

Before joining RCC in 2009, he was a fitness specialist and personal trainer at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA and a mentor for the Hispanic Academic Outreach program.  

For more information about RCC Latino programs, call 541-245-7722 or visit www.roguecc.edu/LatinoPrograms.

Rocky Cazares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RCC helped transform Rocky Cazares’ life

Speaking to nearly 200 local Hispanic high school students recently, Rocky Cazares shared how his youthful problems and fears initially kept him from attending college and getting a good job.

Now a Rogue Community College student, Cazares was addressing the annual Educación, Un Mundo de Oportunidades (EMO) conference, which helps Latino students explore college and careers.

“I told them they could do all that and still be themselves, have fun, be cool, successful, and still get their priorities right,” said Cazares, 23. He is also president of RCC’s Club Latino, a student-run organization that helps present EMO -- Education, A World of Opportunities.

“I feel more positive, proud and optimistic than ever,” he said. “In one year I’ve done more good for myself and others than all my life put together.’

Besides mentoring Latino students, Cazares is earning a 3.5 GPA as he works toward a juvenile corrections certificate. He plans on transferring to a university to study psychology. He’s also overcoming a background that includes run-ins with the law, leaving school early, and getting into a gang at age 13.

“At the time it appeared to be a matter of survival,” said Cazares, who had always been a loner. By joining a gang, he explained, “I wasn’t alone any more and I got respect. But I can’t say I was happy,” he added. “I realize now there were other ways I could have gotten attention.”

He’s still not exactly sure how a combination of forces changed the course of his life: he recognized he was going nowhere fast, he confronted the death of a close friend in street violence, and he increasingly wanted to be successful and make his mother proud of him.

“I realized that part of maturity is to see what our parents went through and sacrificed,” Cazares said. He had earned a GED during frequent stays at juvenile facilities, but Cazares struggled when he first came to RCC, not feeling like he fit in with college students.

Then he encountered Filiberto Bencomo, who coordinates Latino services at RCC. Cazares credits Bencomo with helping him succeed in college and life.

“He’s been kind of a father figure and role model; he’s really supportive,” Cazares said. “I can talk about anything and about my problems. He’s very cool and has a big heart. He’s such a good person.”

Supportive instructors and small classes also helped Cazares triumph, and since attending RCC, “life keeps getting better,” he said.

“Now I’m really happy and comfortable. I’m president of a club, getting good grades and scholarships. I used to hide in corners, and now I stand in the front of the room — all because I started at RCC.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill