Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
Graduating senior Tia Breininger was given that opportunity during her time as a Collins College of Hospitality Management student. She dreams of excelling in the hospitality industry and is well on her way toward her goals, thanks to the family away from home that she has made there. They supported her as she navigated her new life — she left her hometown of Hesperia right after high school to attend Cal Poly Pomona.
Breininger hit the ground running and “has done everything right,” says Student Services Coordinator for The Collins College Carolina Sanchez. “She’s checked off all the boxes on our list of expectations. She’s the epitome of a Collins College student.”
Between being involved with outreach, recruitment, and public relations activities for the college as a Collins Student Ambassador, participating as a member of six different co-curricular student organizations, working as a student assistant, volunteering for events, having a social life and maintaining a 3.86 GPA, Breininger barely has time to sleep. She spends her time outside of academics working full-time at Disneyland to financially support herself through her journey to graduation. Scholarship support has propelled her forward as well. She has received six scholarships during her time at Cal Poly Pomona.
Beyond taking on the world, she has also traveled it. She was able to attend conferences in New York and San Francisco and study abroad in Italy through some of those scholarships.
With all of that responsibility comes a lot of stress, and her college career wasn’t always a smooth ride. There were times when she doubted herself or did not know what she wanted to do after graduation. That’s when she looked to faculty and staff advisors for support, advice and sometimes just an open ear.
“Collins College students are highly competitive,” Sanchez says. “There isn’t always an outlet amongst peers.”
Sanchez was an academic advising coordinator when they first met three years ago. She is now the advisor for the Collins Ambassadors, which Breininger has been involved in for the past two years.
“She taught me a lot about how to believe in myself,” Breininger says. “She was always there to make me see my potential when I did not feel equipped to fill a role or did not think I could succeed at something.”
She considers Sanchez a mother figure who has guided her in becoming the successful, professional young woman she is today.
“She has been there to give me advice, cheer me on, listen to me, back me up, speak well of me, and even tell me when I was wrong,” Breininger says. “It’s hard for me to find the right words to express how thankful I am to have had her as a mentor. She has helped me reach my goals and has made many amazing opportunities possible for me.”
She also found tremendous support from Professor Margie Ferree Jones, with whom she completed an independent study. She worked as Jones’ student assistant, has taken many of her courses, and traveled to Italy with her on the Apicius study abroad program last summer.
“Professor Jones works countless hours to help her students be successful,” Breininger says. “She has gone above and beyond to make sure that I had what I needed to not only make it to graduation, but to be successful after.”
She credits Jones and Sanchez for helping her find her post-graduation path in life. Breininger will go through the Voyager program, a management training program with Marriott International, and will work at the front desk of the JW Marriott LA Live after graduation.
Breininger is The Collins College’s 2015-2016 Julian McPhee Scholar, which is awarded to one student of each college in recognition of their “outstanding contributions.” Faculty and staff chose her from among her peers as the student that “best reflects their college tradition, excellence, and service.”
“I know that the true reason that I have had so many wonderful opportunities is because of the people who have been there to help me through my journey,” she says. “I have learned that success is not achieved alone. “