Meet Our Team – Myrna Cardenas
This is the seventh in the series of interviews with the College Success Arizona team.
Continuing with this feature, and throughout the rest of this year, we’ll be taking a closer look at the College Success Arizona team, the people that make all that we do happen. We’ll be asking the normal “tell us a little about yourself” questions, but also delving a little deeper into each team member’s personality, and what makes them who they are.
This month’s subject is Myrna Cardenas, our Manager of Success Services.
What is your role at College Success Arizona?
I am the manager of Success Services. I manage the day-to-day program and I also supervise the advisers in the office.
Please share with us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in Oregon and my family is still there. My parents came from Mexico, so I am a first- generation student, and a first-generation American. I’m the middle child out of three and I’ve been in Arizona for about 14 years, and this is my home now.
How did you come to be associated with College Success Arizona?
I was working for another mentoring organization a few years back called Arizona Quest for Kids and we shared an office space with College Success Arizona. So, in working with CSA as a partner, I got to know more about what the organization does and its mission, and I was able to transition over to work for College Success Arizona.
What is the best thing about working with students (or your job)?
The best part of this job is definitely the students and getting to know them one-on-one. Besides managing the program, I also have a small caseload of students that I work directly with, and it’s really nice to work with them and watch them grow and really be there to support them as they go through the different stages, and the challenges. I’ve been able to stay with most of my students for the four years that they’re here – so, I’ve been able to support them in that very first semester as a freshmen until they get through to graduation, and even helping through until they get a job.
Why do you feel increasing Arizona’s College Attainment Rate is so important?
I think it’s important for Arizona to be on board with the attainment rate so that there’s more support for education, and being able to make college more accessible to all students in the state. If we’re able to focus on growing the attainment rate, I feel that there will be more support within the state, especially financially, to be able to support the students on their path to higher education.
What is your vision for the Arizona of the future?
My hope is that college will be accessible to any student regardless of what part of the valley they grow up in. Even before college, I hope that all young people will have a quality education and that they’re able to prepare for college, and be ready for the rigorous courses. In Arizona, with our growing Latino population, a lot of our students are first-generation, so it will be great if all of our students can have the same educational opportunities.
If you had a message for a student just beginning their college career, what would that be?
I would encourage them to stay focused and really try to think about the ultimate goal of getting a college degree. I think that with so many challenges coming up in school, especially during the first year, and adding additional personal challenges or being a first-generation student – it can be hard to stay motivated, it can be hard to stay on path. Sometimes, it’s easier to think about what’s happening right now, and it’s hard to think about the ultimate goal, of graduation.
What was your First or most interesting job?
My first professional job experience was working for a chamber of commerce in Oregon. I was 18 and I was fortunate to work with a group of wonderful women that were working in the office with me, and who really inspired me. They gave me a lot of duties and responsibilities, and they saw something in me and they pushed me. It was also my first nonprofit work experience and I really enjoyed it.
What is your career history?
I worked for Wells Fargo for several years after college and worked my way up to a business specialist position, which involved working directly with small business owners. The skills and experience I gained at Wells Fargo, have helped me be successful in the nonprofit sector at Arizona Quest for Kids and at College Success Arizona. I also have a position at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I’ve been working in the mentoring field for about eight years now.
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment is being the first member of my family to graduate from college and to also be considered a role model for not only my younger sister, but also some of the other members of my family, and to set that standard (of graduating from college) for them too.