Rolling across Long Beach State between classes and activities, Vanessa Montano glides gracefully on her pair of vintage 1980s Riedell Skates.
A communications and political science major, and member of Cal State Rollers club, Montano’s life was not always as effortless as her skating.
Born and raised in Oceanside, Montano attended MiraCosta College after high school in 2013. It took her roughly five years to complete her associate degree for transfer.
“[I] never felt like school was for me,” Montano said. “I was one of those people who was like, ‘you don’t need a degree to be someone…having an education doesn’t define you.’”
Montano’s older sister was the first member of her family to finish college. With little guidance at home and no one at her community college to support her, Montano was put on academic probation and quickly lost interest in school.
Her father was paying her tuition, and after he found out she was failing, they had a falling out.
“My dad was really, really strict, and I think that kind of aided in my failure,” Montano said. “He was so controlling and the more he tried to control me the more I backed off.”
Montano eventually moved in with her grandmother, a change that was a catalyst for her future career goals.
According to Montano, her grandmother gave her the unconditional support she never received from her parents. Before passing away in 2017, her grandmother had only two conditions for her granddaughter: to return to school and pay for it.
“She was a huge believer [in] education,” Montano said. “She always wanted us to go to college.”
Montano said her grandmother’s philosophy set her on the right track.
After returning to MiraCosta and enrolling in academic advising courses in 2015, Montano went on to earn certificates in hospitality management and meeting and event management, as well as her communications degree for transfer.
Montano successfully graduated from MiraCosta in 2018 and was set to attend CSULB in the fall. Montano hopes to get her bachelor’s degree and pursue a career as an academic advisor and assist community college students to find their path in life.
Even with the overwhelming size and status of CSULB, Montano said being here in Long Beach “felt right.”
“I wanted to get away from what I was comfortable with back home,” Montano said. “I was essentially forced to do stuff at school and become active in the CSULB community…to meet new friends and get out of my comfort zone.”
This drive to step out of her comfort is what attracted her to the Cal State Rollers. Montano first got involved after seeing club members skating during the fall 2018 Week of Welcome.
“I’ll never forget approaching the tent,” Montano said. “These girls looked cool, they looked happy, they looked nice. They looked like they wanted to share their passion with other people.”
With no previous experience roller skating, Montano decided to dedicate herself to picking up roller skating. After attending the first meeting of the semester, Montano bought her first pair of skates.
“The one thing that stood out about [Montano] was her skates,” said Cal State Rollers Vice President, Evelyn Vazquez. “They were a unique pair that you don’t see often.”
Along with her vintage roller skates, Montano also earned her very own skate name: Venom. Vasquez said that Montano’s quickness to come up with a nickname showed her dedication to skating.
Despite all the time and effort, Montano had to put into learning how to roller skate, she said that it helps her channel all her negative energy and made her happy.
“Once I skate, I feel better and forget school and all the stress pent up inside,” Montano said.
Looking back on her journey and the impact school and roller skating has had on her life, Montano said she doesn’t regret anything.
“I’m pretty amazed with myself,” Montano said. “I have to remind myself of that and how far I’ve come.”