Tucson, AZ – Being an advocate for America’s marginalized residents is a passion and career path for 22-year-old Monica Contreras who recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Mexican American Studies.
Originally Monica wanted to be a journalist but after starting at the U of A she found her true passion, “I’m very interested in the nonprofit field and human rights, and migrant rights. The Mexican American Studies program was very intensive in terms of social justice education. I feel that is where my passion really lies in helping people navigate their lives when they’re dealing with unjust laws, or improving public education and putting in more funding.”
Monica adds that her ultimate career goal is to be an immigration attorney, “I know that if I were to pursue law school it would be a very rigorous journey. But I also feel that helping the Mexican American and Latino community is a big passion of mine, especially coming from a migrant family.”
Monica says she’s the first person in her family to graduate from college, “It’s still kind of surreal and I can’t imagine how fast the whole four years went by. I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for the family and friends who have supported me along the way. As first-generation students and Latino students we go through a lot to make it through this journey.”
Monica grew up on Phoenix where she graduated from Carl Hayden Community High School. She went on to earn a scholarship from College Success Arizona which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. The scholarship also provides specialized mentoring services from “Success Advisers” (mentors) who work with students to help them overcome academic as well as personal struggles.
Monica offers high praise for her success adviser, Matt Sotelo, “He was amazing. He definitely went out of his way to help me not just academically, but also in my personal life – being away from home was definitely hard sometimes. He always reminded us to make time for ourselves for self-care and to always remember that all of the struggle is definitely worth it.”
Monica also credits the scholarship with helping her to limit student debt, “I would definitely say so. College tuition is still very expensive and I feel like it’s a lot harder for students to graduate debt free, but the scholarship definitely helped me tremendously.”
Middle and high school students considering college may find Monica’s words of wisdom helpful:
“I would definitely say to find a support system of people that have the same passions as you and the same interests as you. One of the biggest things that has helped me succeed here was finding the support system that you can to for help and that encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, and do things that you didn’t think you would normally be able to do.”