Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program celebrates 35 years

May 15, 2019

This spring marks the 35th anniversary of ASU’s Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program that aims to increase the number of first-generation Arizona students who are prepared to enroll and succeed at Arizona State University.

The program was launched in 1984 by Joanne O’Donnell to address the underrepresentation of women and women of color attending ASU. Every year, the program selects hundreds of seventh grade students and family member participant teams — 650 this year alone — to become more familiar with the process of preparing for a college education through activities focused on skill building, mentorship and community-building around higher education. Monthly workshops on ASU’s Tempe campus address topics such as peer pressure, financial aid and preparing for high school. Translators are available for Spanish speakers to make the material more accessible.   Hispanic Mother Daughter Program ASU spring 2019 graduate Jackelyne Arevalo From left: Cesar Arevalo, ASU grad Jackelyne Arevalo and Delia Acosta at the 2019 spring Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program graduation celebration. Download Full Image

The program, which earned Helios Foundation support in 2007, has reached thousands of parent-student teams, and its impact has been significant. The enrollment of resident Latina women at ASU in 1984 was 556. As of fall 2018, that number increased to more than 7,000 Latina students.

The program can have a huge impact on families’ higher education goals. Liliana Campos was a participant when she was in middle school. She enjoyed the program as a student but didn’t complete it after she had her daughter, Briana. She encouraged her daughter to participate when she was old enough.

“It’s a great opportunity ... to continue my daughter’s education,” Campos said.  

Her daughter is now a senior at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix, and Campos said she’s noticed how focused her daughter is on college. She has been admitted to ASU and is pursuing a fashion degree starting in the fall. Campos said the most beneficial part of the program for their family has been the community support and confidence to “believe that … it’s possible to get through college.”

“There are so many resources out there. (The mentors) pretty much guide you and give you that support,” she said.

Connecting students with resources and preparing them for the sometimes intimidating processes of higher education is a core component of the program. Leonela Urrutia is a senior at ASU and an alumna of the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program; she said the program’s financial aid workshops helped her earn a full ride to ASU. She is about to graduate with a political science degree, a minor in French and a certificate in international studies.

Urrutia is also an office assistant and peer adviser for the program, so she works on the daily functions of the workshops and also serves as a presenter, emcee and particpant mentor for the monthly workshops.

She said the program is invaluable because it lets families know that higher education goals are reachable.

“I tell all the students that this program is for them and the resources are right in front of them. If they’re thinking about it they should just take the leap of faith,” Urrutia said. “The program is going to help educate you and your parents or guardians about college and higher education. (These are) goals that are attainable, even though they seem so unrealistic to some.”

Urrutia has seen the program’s effect on her whole family. Her older sister, Katherine, went through the program and attended Grand Canyon University with scholarships. Urrutia said her mom, Glenda, was inspired through the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program to get a certificate to be a teaching assistant. Her mother now works with a speech pathologist after spending time caregiving and working in the cleaning industry.

“My mom encourages all parents she knows to go through the program,” said Urrutia, who plans on pursuing work with the state legislature advocating for education and immigration equity after she graduates.

Participants and alumni often introduce the program to others, and partnerships with schools and community organizations have also fueled the program’s success over the decades.

Cyndi Tercero, who was awarded the program’s Commitment to Service Award at the recent Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program graduation ceremony on May 1, has been involved in the program for more than 20 years as an educator at Carl Hayden High School and later as an administrator at Phoenix Union High School District.

Tercero saw early on the contributions that the program made to students. A turning point for her was in the mid-1990s when she was at Carl Hayden; Tercero remembers an intelligent young girl in tears because her grandmother told her to “stop the crazy talk about going to college” because her role as a woman in the community was to find a husband.

“Her parents and grandparents were shocked that at the school level we were trying to encourage her to go further on,” she said.

The student was not in the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, but some of her friends were.

“I just kept thinking, what a difference the program could have made for her,” she said.

Since then Tercero has served on the former Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program board and been an advocate for higher education for students in Phoenix. She said she’s humbled and honored to receive the award.

“I’ve been so committed to this program. I was not a Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program alum; I didn’t get to experience the program firsthand but I know I got to experience how it impacted many of our students.”

Tercero said that through the program, students and parents all benefit from the mindset that college is an attainable goal, including living on campus and having a full campus experience.

The impact has been felt among a diverse group of students. Although it has retained its original name, the program also embraces participants of diverse ethnic backgrounds, and sons and fathers or other caregivers have also participated. Alumni of the program have gone on to diverse careers, including in broadcast media, financial planning, teaching, nursing and engineering. And the number of teams served is growing to 1,000 annually in the next two years, including an expansion to ASU’s West campus in Glendale.

“It has been so inspiring to see all of the classes of mothers and daughters enter and graduate from this program over the years,” said Anita Verdugo Tarango, director of outreach for ASU Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are building skills, community and a legacy of higher education for entire families through the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, and we’re thrilled to celebrate 35 years of this work at ASU.”

Find out more about the program, including how to apply or support the program, at the Hispanic Mother Daughter Program website.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services


SAGE project at ASU brings garden curriculum to Valley campuses

Gardens as an educational tool have been shown to provide benefits to young children

May 15, 2019

Who doesn’t love a garden? Turning the soil and planting seeds or seedlings just so, then watering and witnessing subtle, then significant growth over time. It is a gratifying experience that, if done right, can lead to tasty ones.

Of course, there are also plenty of literal lessons to be learned in the process, which is part of the reason why gardens have become so popular in schools in the United States. Stock Image - Young child in a garden bed Gardens are a fun, interactive educational tool and have been shown to provide a lot of benefits beyond the classroom. Stock image Download Full Image

According to data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2017 there were gardens at more than 7,000 schools nationwide.

Professor Rebecca Lee from Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is adding to that number. She’s the principal investigator of a research program currently underway in the Phoenix area called Sustainability via Active Garden Education or SAGE.

“SAGE was developed to help early care and education centers meet national physical activity, nutrition and education standards. So, the primary goal of SAGE is to help kids be more physically active and learn about fruits and veggies while they are at their early care and education center,” Lee said.

Lee and her team work with early care and education centers in underserved areas of the Valley. In order for a center to be part of SAGE, they must be Child and Adult Care Food Program eligible.

Although starting a school garden is extremely beneficial, maintaining it beyond the initial planting cycle can be tough for schools. We spoke with Lee to dig a little deeper into this growing movement and to learn how a protocol like SAGE can help schools sustain their efforts.

Question: What are some of the benefits of having a garden program in early child care and education settings?

Answer: First, we know that this is the optimal stage in a child’s development for them to create physical activity and healthy eating habits. So exposing these young minds to the benefits of consistent physical activity and consuming fresh fruits and vegetables at a young age can have a lifelong impact.

Second, studies have shown gardens provide kids hands-on experience with science concepts, which can lay the groundwork for more advanced learning later on. In the SAGE program, kids learn about all the different elements plants need to grow: soil, sun, water, etc. Our current and past SAGE teachers tell us the children are able to connect the dots between a healthy garden and a healthy body, understanding that they too need proper nutrition, physical activity and water every day to grow big and strong.

Third, kids who get daily physical activity are more focused, which can translate to better behavior overall as well as improved grades and school attendance.

Professor , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Rebecca Lee

Q: Why is it important for schools to maintain garden programs?

A: In addition to everything above, introducing kids to gardens is an effective way to help them learn where food comes from. That link is especially important now because as food technology has improved, some of the connection of how the food gets from the farm to the table has been lost. Garden programs help to rebuild that connection.

Q: What are some of the reasons centers do not continue to keep up their gardens?

A: Many early care and education centers are really excited about having gardens, but we found that in cases where they were not maintained, lack of a maintenance strategy or interest were the primary reasons. Even though gardens are not expensive, they require consistent attention and planning by school staff. A few of the locations we worked with (about 25%) in SAGE were not able to overcome those obstacles. Centers that are able to designate a garden champion and implement a maintenance schedule into their daily school routine usually have the most success.

Q: How can SAGE help increase the sustainability of garden projects?

A: At the beginning of the SAGE programs the team provides teacher training, helps to build a garden on site, as well as ongoing technical support. Midway through the program, we complete a booster session to help teachers and schools with anything that they might be missing to help implement the curriculum and garden. Then, toward the end of the SAGE formal programming, we link teachers and directors to our experts who serve on our community advisory board. These are local experts and master gardeners who have connections to resources the schools may need to sustain their gardens.   

Q: How can someone get involved in SAGE?

A: We are presently looking for early care and education centers for our SAGE fall 2019 cohort. Interested centers should contact our project director, Hector Valdez, for more information at 602-496-2011 or visit our website

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation