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Paty Gonzalez

Yuma, AZ – Paty Gonzalez is planning on working as a speech pathologist and wants to help people living in the area between Yuma and the U.S. border with Mexico.

Paty is a 22-year-old senior attending the Northern Arizona University Yuma Branch Campus. She expects to graduate later this year with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies of Speech-Language Sciences and Technology.

Paty says she plans to attend graduate school, “I’m hoping to continue to be exposed to the field and learn as much as I can right now as an assistant. Hopefully when I finish grad school and get my master’s degree and continue to work as a pathologist. Maybe one day I can open my own business and have pathologists working for me and sending them to rural places like San Luis (Arizona), because there’s a high demand for pathologists out here.”

Paty adds that helping people with speech challenges has become a passion, “The first pathologist that I went to shadow when I first found out about the career was just so enthusiastic. Her heart was there to help the patient who had dementia. He was forgetting a lot of what was going on and who people were. He had also suffered a stroke which left him with very low muscle movements in the mouth area. It was just something that looked so interesting and I think communication is such a big part in everybody’s everyday life. Being able to help someone express themselves or communicate with somebody else and get a message across is just something truly important to me.”

She says for some people communicating does not involve the spoken word:

“Communication doesn’t just encompass speaking or speech, it encompasses just getting a message across. So that could be anything from sign language to body language, or just learning new ways to cope with the disorder or medical condition that the person might have.”

Paty was born in Tucson and later lived in Blythe, California before her family moved to the Yuma area when she was in the fourth grade.  She graduated from Cibola High School in 2012 and went on to earn a scholarship from College Success Arizona which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses. The Phoenix-based educational nonprofit also provides students with specialized mentoring services through “Success Advisers” (mentors), who help them navigate through academic and personal challenges.

Patty has praise for her success adviser Matt Sotelo, “Matt is wonderful. I’m so happy that he’s my adviser. It’s good to know that you have an adviser who truly cares and wants to get to know you. He was very interested in knowing how we were doing, what we needed help in academically and personally – he was just always available to us.”

Paty says the scholarship has helped her to limit student debt, “Oh yes definitely. The four years that I’ve been in college I haven’t had to take out any loans, which I’m so thankful for because I hear pathologists I work with talk about their loans and I think, ‘thank god I have my scholarships.’ It’s helped me to save a little bit as well so when I want to take classes in the summer I’m able to pull from that (savings) and use it.”

Many college student faces challenges and for Paty it’s being an online student, “Sometimes it can be really challenging because it feels kind of like you’re on your own. You don’t really have a peer that you see every day or every other day in class. So we have to kind of motivate each other. I feel like I’m on my own but I have very supportive family and friends and they’ve always been the ones to help push me through.”

Students considering their own college course may consider Pati’s words of wisdom, “I think that if they really want to do it that anything is possible. If they want to become an astronaut or a social worker, I say ‘do it.’ Do it for the right reasons and the only thing to fear is fear itself.”

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