" We have a lot of students with different backgrounds, different stories and everybody deserves to have someone support them," she said.
Karina is a CFES Scholar, part of national program called "College For Every Student" that focuses on three core practices: mentoring, pathways to college and leadership through service.
The non-profit organization works with 140 K-12 schools across the country and choses scholars through teacher nominations.
"They are students who are capable but have not yet seen themselves as college material," CFES Director of Mentoring Missy Wilkins said.
At New Britain High, the upperclassmen nurture the young freshmen, while education students from Central Connecticut State counsel those mentors.
It's a win-win situation. The teens have an opportunity to form a relationship with a college student and the budding teachers from CCSU get a first chance to see high school from a different perspective.
"We pick up everything you can't learn in a book, and learn how to interact and how to let students be students and bring out their personality," CCSU senior, Logan Bourke, said.
For many of these kids, life beyond high school has a new potential, thanks to the CFES program and role models like Karina Velez.
"It doesn't matter your background or your family story, you can be the first generation in college and make a difference," she said.