By Troy Wilde
Updated May 22, 2017
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 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 graduated from Cibola High School and then earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education at Northern Arizona University’s Yuma Branch Campus.
Josefina says her family encouraged her to attend college:
“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 probably wouldn’t have made it to college.”
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, was a source of encouragement and guidance, “He has always been very supportive of me, and asked me, ‘How am I doing? And he encouraged me to just keep on going and cheered me up when I was down. I always knew that could count on him.”
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.”
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 backgrounds, your tax deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page. Your support can help change lives.