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Graduate ‘found another family in ASU’

Students in ASU's ROTC program participate in activities

Photo courtesy of Juan Laguna

April 17, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Juan Laguna wants to make his family proud.

“I always wanted to find a way to help them,” said Laguna, a political science and history double major and soon-to-be graduate from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. “The only real way to do that is to study hard and get good grades and a good job. I think I might have accomplished that goal for now, but I’m still looking for ways to help them.”

This May, Laguna won’t just be graduating from the School of Politics and Global Studies and the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He’ll also be one of the first graduating members of ASU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which provides academic and financial support to students like Laguna who are from migrant and seasonal farmworker families.

The CAMP Scholars Project, part of The College’s School of Transborder Studies, is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education.

“Joining the CAMP Project was one of the best decisions I ever made in college,” Laguna said. “Everything was about helping each other, and finding ways to grow and finding opportunities to take. I was also able to attend a lot of leadership conferences and events, and for the first time ever I flew from Phoenix to California. That was my first time in an airplane, ever.”

Laguna answered some questions about his time at Arizona State University.

Question: Why did you choose to go to ASU, and what made you pick your major(s)?

Answer: I picked ASU because I wanted to be part of the ASU Army ROTC program, one of the best programs in the nation. And I wanted something bigger — I grew up in a small border town and I wanted to experience a big city like Phoenix, Arizona. I picked political science and history as my majors because I wanted to make a change in the near future. I wanted to understand the government's laws and policies. I grew up witnessing all the injustices perpetrated on farmworkers and minorities in the U.S. Also, I thought political science was the best fit for me to get into a law school after I served four years in the U.S. Army. 

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way either in coming to ASU or while here? If so, how did you overcome them?

A: One of the biggest obstacles I faced was being away from my family. Since I was little, I spent a lot of time with them so being cut off from them was hard. Also, I really struggled with the fear of not succeeding. I always wanted to have good grades, so that was a big concern for me. But I managed to overcome these obstacles by joining the CAMP Scholars Project. I got to hang out with other CAMP scholars and with my ROTC buddies. They were always there for me — they helped me cope. I would say I found another family in ASU.

Q: How has The College prepared you for success?

A: The College gave me specific skills to succeed in life. One big one was critical thinking, and learning to be responsible for myself and others. And being at The College made me more interested in politics and my field of study. I’m grateful for that, because I know I’m going to use everything I learned in the future. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: In my freshman year, I learned from my mentor, Professor Carlos Velez-Ibanez, to be proud of my heritage. He told me to try and do the best for my peers, my family and my community, and to always put my interests aside. That really changed my way of thinking about a lot of things.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Stay focused and work hard — you can always become a master of your craft. It’s important to try to be the best you can be, even when it comes to something like your job. Ultimately, your job is an extension of yourself and your work ethic.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I spent a lot of time in the School of Transborder Studies’ computer lab. I was there with my CAMP scholar friends, just doing homework and hanging out. That was always the place to go, even during finals week. And I also love “A” Mountain, mainly because I love running a lot.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I’ve been in the Army ROTC program at ASU for the last four years. So after college, I’m going to begin training in the Basic Officer Leaders Course in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After four years of service, I’ll retire and hopefully go to law school — I’d really love to give back to my community.

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