First-gen communication grad on juggling schoolwork, motherhood and a full-time job


April 22, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

From a young age, first-generation college student Crystal Medina knew she wanted to attend Arizona State University. Crystal Medina This spring, Crystal Medina will receive her bachelor’s degree in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Download Full Image

“I have always admired ASU and to receive a degree from this wonderful institution was my main goal in life,” Medina said. “Since I was child, the ASU pitchfork was a symbol of strength and prosperity; I related it to Poseidon’s fork I suppose. Being the first in my family to receive a degree was really important, and to us ASU was always the gold standard of higher education.”

This spring, Medina will receive her bachelor’s degree in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After working for over four years in the nonprofit sector at a local community health center, Medina decided to pursue her bachelor's degree at ASU to advance her career.

As a wife, mother and full-time employee, Medina encountered challenges balancing her many responsibilities on her path to graduation. But with the flexibility of ASU Online, she was able to complete her bachelor’s degree in a couple years.

“I had long days and long nights. ... I lost connections to friends and family,” she said. “Sometimes I rarely got to spend any time with my children and family. I overcame this by sticking to a schedule and rarely having any leisure time. I missed out on a lot of family social events and holidays and my evenings and weekends were also scheduled, to the minute.”

She said all the obstacles she faced were worth it to show her two young sons that hard work pays off and they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.

“Success was the driver for my long and challenging road. It paid off in the end — to be able to provide my children a great example and raise the bar for them was the goal,” she said.

Medina shared more about her experiences at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned while at The College that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I learned how to take an idea and make it a reality — like surveys and how to determine the outcome and make plans according to survey results. It showed me how to become a leader not just a manager — to help employees grow and prosper by providing support and professional development. I got a better grasp of communication and the overall methods and manners in which to examine, process and address things. It gave me the opportunity to practice real-life scenarios by building work contract training portfolios, while working with other students to accomplish tasks. The education and knowledge I gained helped me realize why it's required for most of the jobs I wanted.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I would have to say it was Professor Tony Roberto who gave me my most valuable lesson. Once I took his class, it all clicked for me. I realized why most things are done as they are and it provided me with new perspectives. The techniques and topics I learned in his class are things that I still use today in my current role. 

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

A: Don’t give up. Although some days you stay up asking yourself if it’s worth it, it is worth it. And if I can do it, you can too. Also, brace yourself for change, because without change there is no different, improved version of yourself. We go to school to become different people. To become educated people, to become people of reason and people of change. Be that change that you want to see in yourself or your future. Change is the only constant.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to relax for a few months, do some deep cleaning and focus on my family. In the future I would like to open my own restaurant. Right now I want to continue working in my current role and help expand the nonprofit's services to more people in the community. That is what I am truly passionate about — helping others reach self-sufficiency.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences