By Troy Wilde
September 9, 2016
Yuma, AZ – Josefina Chavez is working towards becoming a high school Spanish teacher in Yuma, Arizona, even though she didn’t learn to speak English until she was 15 when her family moved to Yuma from Mexico.
Josefina explains that she has a passion for the Spanish language, “First of all, it’s my first language, and second – I love the music in Spanish, and all of the writers in Spanish – the sentences, the grammar, I just love Spanish.”
Josefina, age 22, graduated from Cibola High School and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University’s Yuma Branch Campus.
Josefina says the biggest challenge in coming to the U.S. was overcoming the language barrier, “I didn’t speak any English and I had to enter school as an ESL student, and it was really difficult for me to learn. I remember during my freshman year, I cried because I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t understand the teachers – but with the help of my teachers I learned the language, and I’m still learning.”
Josefina also credits her college career to a lot of family encouragement:
“Even though they (my parents) don’t have a higher education, they’re always telling me that I have to study, because that is my future. They work in the fields, and they tell me that they don’t want me to work in the fields because it’s really hard, and they don’t want to me work as hard as they have to work.”
Josefina is among the hundreds of hard working students from across the state who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona. She says, “It’s been really helpful for me. I still remember when I applied for this scholarship, and I didn’t think I was going to get it because my essay wasn’t as good as the others, and then when I got the letter saying that I got the scholarship, I cried because I knew it was going to be really helpful for me financially. I am aware, if it wasn’t for this scholarship I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
The scholarship provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. Students also receive specialized mentoring services from “Success Advisers.” Josefina says Matt Sotelo, her success adviser, has been a source of encouragement and guidance, “He has always been very supportive of me, and asks me, ‘How am I doing? And he encourages me to just keep on going and cheers me up when I was down. I always know that I can count on him, and he’s offered to write me a recommendation letter and he’s always there to help us.”
Josefina has some advice for middle and high school students considering college, “I just want to tell everyone to study, never give up, ask questions, ask for advice, just go out there and ask questions, and just don’t be afraid to ask people to help you. Just keep on going, if you found something you like, don’t give up.”