Flagstaff, AZ – Melissa Calderon wants to be a social worker and help the children of undocumented immigrants.
Melissa explains, “I was part of an immigration class that was all about Mexican-American immigration. I found that I could really relate to it, and it really opened my eyes because my parents emigrated from Mexico. So, I’m hoping that I can use my social work degree to do work in the area of immigration – particularly with children of parents who are undocumented.”
Melissa, age 19, was born in San Gabriel, California but grew up mostly in the Phoenix-suburb of Peoria. She graduated from Peoria High School, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, “I really do love Flagstaff because it is just so beautiful, and I like the fact that attending NAU means living in a smaller community, which is a very nice experience.”
Melissa points out that her parents are a big part of the reason she’s attending college:
“Growing up, my mom and dad were always telling me that they made the sacrifice for us – that they’re working hard for us – and that college is a better path than working without an education. I know that they are so proud of me for being the first person in my family to get to college. I’m always thinking about them and the struggles that they faced and overcame, and that’s why I want to use my social work degree to help families like mine.”
Meanwhile, Melissa also has a part-time job as a peer mentor on the NAU campus, “I think this is the perfect job because it involves working with people and talking with people, and I know that social work will involve a lot of talking to groups, and talking to people. I meet with the mentees every week and check in with them, and see how their freshman year is going. During freshman year I had a peer mentor, and I thought it was really beneficial because there was that person encouraging me and motivating me, and giving me resources in case I had any questions. And basically I’m that person for somebody else.”
Melissa is among the many hardworking students who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. Students, such as Melissa, also receive specialized mentoring services from “Success Advisers,” provided by College Success Arizona. The advisers work with the students, helping them navigate through the many challenges that can come with college.
Melissa’s adviser is Robert Davis, “We joke around and have a good time, and he makes sure that I’m doing okay, and he asks me questions about everything that’s going on with school. Just recently I applied for the social work program and Robert let me put him down as a reference, so he is definitely there for me. During my freshmen year, he knew everything that was going on and I really appreciate that he continues to care about me.”
Melissa adds that the financial side of scholarship has been a big help, “It’s helped a lot because my parents aren’t really able to pay for college just by themselves. So, the scholarship has meant the world because it has allowed me to come here (NAU) and get a degree, which my parents didn’t get to do. Also, I don’t have to worry about having a bunch of debt afterwards.”
Melissa has some advice for middle and high school students considering their own path to college, “I would encourage them to definitely try to work with a guidance counselor at school, or other clubs, that offer insight and information about scholarships and other programs about college. For example, I had a guidance counselor who told me about the STAR program at NAU – so, if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have done that, and may not be here now.”