Women in Entertainment Mentorship Grad: Program Taught Me "Women Can Do Anything"
Karla Trujillo writes about her experience as a mentee to Amy Baer in THR and Big Brothers Big Sisters' program — which began pairing inner-city girls in their junior year of high school with top-level executive in 2008 — and what she's doing now
This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
I grew up surrounded by relatives who'd pursued a higher education or gone into the military because they understood the importance of building a future. So I didn't need the Mentoring Program to push me toward college. But it did impact me in a more surprising way: girl power.
The moment that brought it together was the breakfast for Women in Entertainment in 2010. That's when it 100 percent hit me how awesome these women were. My mentor's assistant, Maria Kavanaugh, and I were fan-girling all the time, and she made sure to tell me who was who, and we'd Google their careers for inspiration. I specifically remember Sherry Lansing and being in awe of her. There was Sherry Lansing, the first woman in control of a Hollywood studio. It's like: the first female astronaut, or the first female congresswoman.
I was lucky to be in that room filled with women with power, and I can't say I've ever had that pleasure since. Even today, I find that in business classes and history classes all the talk is about males and how they're leaders. We never talk about the women.
After the program, I didn't feel certain about anything, so I took a semester off. It was weird being left behind as my friends went off to immerse themselves in the "college experience." I attended classes at East Los Angeles College and took online courses from Rio Hondo Community College -- and then I decided to apply to USC. I gambled and applied only to USC because that's where I always wanted to go and I had nothing to lose.
I was asleep one day during summer vacation and I heard footsteps running from the main door of our house and coming toward my room, and with them came a sound like the crinkling of paper. Suddenly the crinkling is right in my face and I open my eyes to see my dad shoving a packet from USC at my face and smiling like a madman. "Open it, open it, open it!!!" At this point my mom is in there too, half asleep but also smiling brightly. I ripped it open, and inside was a plastic red folder with the gold letters of USC, and there was a diploma with massive letters saying, "Welcome to the Family." Cue my tears. I sobbed. I was convinced that I wouldn't get accepted. I just gambled.
I am now a history major at USC, my dream school, and a feminist lucky enough to have been exposed to girl power in the Mentoring Program. I knew from my family that I can do anything. But I know from the Mentoring Program how women can do anything.