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Salma Valdez

Glendale, AZ – Salma Valdez is a first-generation college student who is working toward her long-term career goal of becoming a psychologist.

Salma, age 20, was born and raised in Phoenix and graduated from Thunderbird High School in 2015. She graduated from Glendale Community College with an Associate Degree in the Spring of this year and is scheduled to start classes at Arizona State University this fall, where she plans to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.

Salma says she discovered her career passion at college, “I didn’t know that that I wanted to work in psychology until about a year ago. It was basically taking classes at GCC and finding out that I actually like psychology, and especially my Research Methods class, is what really made it clear that this is what I want to continue studying.”

Meanwhile, Salma is among the students who receive specialized mentoring services through College Success Arizona’s team of highly skilled “Success Advisers,” and its partnership with the EXCEL Program, which serves students at Glendale Community College and other community colleges. Salma’s Success Adviser is Matt Sotelo, “Matt has helped me out a lot. I’ve known him for three years now, and he’s just always been there for me and I can really count on him – and, he’s just a really great support system. Having a mentor helped out a lot; having someone to go to and someone giving me advice.”

Transitioning from high school to college can be challenging for some students, but Salma says having a support system in place made it easier, “From high school to college it was a little bit difficult just because everything was different, but Excel really helped out a lot. They made it a lot easier and they made it feel like everything is going to be okay. If you have any questions, I can just ask – and so, I know that I can still ask them questions, even though now I’ll be going to university (ASU).

For middle and high school students considering their own college options and opportunities, Salma offers some advice, “Try and not be afraid of learning different things – things that you would never think of learning before, and just be very open-minded about everything.”

Salma adds that academic exploration helped her find her path in life:

“Finding what I want to do for the rest of my life, which is what I finally realized a year ago, was my biggest obstacle that I’ve overcome – just because I never knew, I was so undecided. I think the best part of college is getting to know all of these things that they didn’t teach you before, and just really opening your eyes to life, and realizing that everybody has different opinions, and you get to see all of that through college.”

Beyond the books, Salma enjoys playing soccer and watching Netflix.

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 circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the College Success Arizona homepage at

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