Glendale, AZ – Ashanti Ruiz has a long-term goal of using her college education, a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Health, to serve those in need in the West Phoenix area where she grew up.
Ashanti explains, “Behavioral health basically involves taking in a person and seeing how they are doing psychologically and evaluating the environment around them, and just trying to find resources and some type of coping mechanism to help them succeed in their life. With my degree there is a lot of flexibility, I can be a social worker and specialize in trauma, substance abuse, or violence, or another area of interest.
One of my goals is to definitely make a bigger difference – I know that here on the West Side there aren’t that many resources available to get help if you’re going through some type of trauma or substance abuse. I definitely want to help out in my community, because my community is very important to me, and growing up here just made me realize that somebody needs to step up and provide those type of resources”
Ashanti, age 20, was born in Sacramento and raised in Phoenix since the age of eight. She graduated from Maryvale High School in 2016 and is currently wrapping up her second year at Glendale Community College. Ashanti plans to transfer to Northern Arizona University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Health, and eventually a Master’s Degree, “Oh definitely! I do honestly love school, and it is frustrating at times, but I can’t imagine living my life without being in school – so, I do plan on continuing my education and pursue a Master’s Degree.”
Ashanti says that her and education and career path is motivated by personal experience, “Myself, I went through a lot of stuff when I was younger, such as depression. I remember wishing that there was some kind of resource nearby to help me, but they were always too far, and my mom couldn’t always drive me. I know how important and valuable it is to find somebody nearby who can help, and I’m hoping to be that person for somebody else.”
Meanwhile, Ashanti is among the students who receive specialized mentoring services through College Success Arizona’s team of highly skilled “Success Advisers,” and its partnership with the EXCEL Program, which serves students at Glendale Community College and other community colleges. Ashanti’s Success Adviser is Matt Sotelo, “He has been a huge part of my success in college. Matt’s helped me through pretty much everything, regardless of the questions I ask; “When is the best time to transfer? When is the best time to apply for university? What should I do? Or if I have questions about my classes or need resources – he’s been there pretty much since the beginning So, my transition to college was definitely easier with him there.”
Ashanti’s mother has also provided a lot of motivation, “Definitely! My mom has always encouraged me. My mom doesn’t necessarily have a job that somebody would brag about – and she’s always telling me that she’s very proud of me and that she’s willing to do anything in order for me to succeed. My education is a huge deal, because my mom wants me to be college educated, and be all of things that she always wanted to be.”
Transitioning from high school to college can be loaded with challenges, and opportunities for personal growth. Ashanti says college has expanded her world, “Because I went to Maryvale High School, it is predominantly a Hispanic community. So, when I got to college it was sort of a shock to me because it is so diverse, and there are so many different people going through so many different things, and that have different backgrounds than me. It has felt nice to meet people who are different than me, and we can’t always relate on everything but it’s just interesting to meet other people and gain different perspectives.”
Beyond the books, Ashanti enjoys spending her time helping others, “When I can, I try and volunteer but lately I’ve been busy with my internship at Disability Resources and Services on the GCC campus. I help people that have some type of disability and I help them with their homework and other academics. I’m just there if they need help with really anything, and every day is different. I have some students who are deaf, and I’ve been picking up some of the Sign Language – honestly, every day is an adventure.”
Ashanti spends much of her time away from the books, earning money to pay for the books, “I moved out of my mom’s house and I am pretty much independent, and I pay my rent. I go to work full-time, and I also have a part-time job and I do my internship part-time. It’s a busy schedule and I try to get as much sleep as I can, but at the end of the day I know my purpose, I know my goals, and no matter what happens I’m going to achieve it.”
For middle and high school students considering their own college options and opportunities, Ashanti says, “Definitely don’t be scared! I know that when I first got to college I was really scared in the sense that I was scared to ask the ‘dumb question.’ Sometimes, it feels like you’re alone, but you’re not because you will meet people who are in the same boat as you, people who are first generation students – and you will form some type of community and help each other out in school and in life. And, take advantage of the all of the opportunities at college because you’ll go through a bunch of new experiences and learn a bunch of new things.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.