Skip to Content

Natalie Rivera Cardenas

Phoenix, AZ – Natalie Rivera Cardenas is pursuing an educational and career path that will involve working on dead bodies.

Natalie explains, “I have yet to see what a dead body smells like and stuff like that, but I’m up for the challenge and with my college experience and what I’ve gone through my whole life, it’s all a good learning experience. So, I just want to get my feet wet and see what I like best about being a Medical Examiner – and, also what I don’t like, and learn from it and eventually get to where I want to be.

Natalie, age 20, was born and raised in Tucson where she graduated from Desert View High School. She’s currently attending Arizona State University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science. “It’s very interdisciplinary, so it’s just a matter of different disciplines coming together that have the same goal of solving a case, or giving justice to someone, or putting someone behind bars. Working in this field will provide a lot of personal satisfaction and is a great way to work, and help in the community. It’s also about being a voice for those who are no longer here, and helping to find justice for them.”

Meanwhile, Natalie is also pursuing an internship with the FBI, “Working with the FBI is another lifelong goal I’m working on achieving. The internship would allow me to shadow an FBI agent and work somewhere within my major. I would be working at one of the agency’s headquarters, most likely here in Phoenix. I believe that working with the best in a specialized area, will benefit me a lot in terms of education and career.”

Natalie adds that her interest in Crime Scene Investigation goes back a ways:

“I really got into science when I was in high school, but I’ve had an interest in it since I was little, just based on the CSI shows. But, coming to college has really opened my eyes and given me a different perspective, because being a Medical Examiner or Crime Science Investigator is nothing like what you see on TV. You don’t get results back right away and they just portray it differently on television. As a scientist, I’m growing and able to see that there is much more of a process involved, and it’s really science intensive and a lot goes into it. But, just setting your mind to it and working as a group here at ASU – I feel that it really exposes you to a lot of hands-on experience and analytical thinking skills that you have to have. And, it just fascinates me even though it’s really hard.”

Natalie is among the hundreds of high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provide up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, “It is honestly a privilege to even be here at ASU, and when I found out that I had earned the scholarship from College Success Arizona it meant a lot to me, because it’s helping to cover my college expenses. I know that not a lot of kids get to be here at ASU, and to have the advising and support from College Success Arizona has also been really helpful.”

Beyond financial support, scholars such Natalie also receive specialized mentoring services from a team of “Success Advisers.” Matt Sotelo is Natalie’s adviser, “Matt is just this down-to-Earth guy and he goes out of his way whenever I need something. Coming to college in Phoenix, when I’m from Tucson, has been a really hard transition, and just having the support of Matt and College Success Arizona is what I really take to heart, and appreciate.”

Natalie was raised by a single-mother, who has always encouraged her educational pursuits, “She’s always been very supportive and the field I’m studying is something that she’s always been interested in too – so, just being able to see me aspire and go to college makes her really proud, and she supports me in everything I do.”

For middle and high school students who may be considering their own college options, Natalie has some advice to offer, “During your senior year of high school, you may not be sure what you want to take in college, but I say, ‘go for it.’ Because, when you get to college you will find your passion and when you do – just strive for excellence, and do your very best in all areas of life. I want to follow through with college and my education to not only fulfill my life goals, but also to be a leader to others, especially to my younger brother and the many friends I have that still attend Desert View High School. And, just setting an example for them to let them know that nothing can stop them, as long as they pursue it, and keep at it.”

Beyond the books, Natalie tries to find time to relax, “Usually when I go home to visit, me and my younger brother like to ride dirt bikes, so that’s pretty cool. I also enjoy just being with family and friends hanging out, going to the moves.

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.

See More Success Stories

Back to top