First-gen ASU student becomes community mentor

Former Dorrance Scholar finds passion in helping new first-generation students go to college


September 22, 2022

According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, a third of college students are the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree, which is no small feat.

Statistically, these students are more likely to face financial challenges due to a lower parental incomeaccording to U.S. Department of Education data released in 2018 than continuing-generation students. They are also less likely to graduate in four years, owing to many reasons, from lacking additional support in successfully navigating college to the social isolation that can come with being educational pioneers in their families.

Portrait of Yazmin Reyes, a smiling young woman with dark hair and purple flowers in the background. Yazmin Reyes

It can be difficult not having the proper guidance from family members since they are not well-versed in the intricacies of the college experience.  

Sun Devil and first-generation graduate Yazmin Reyes knows exactly how this feels.

As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, Reyes has often felt “ni de aqui, ni de alla,” which means “neither from here nor from there.” Her family encouraged her to pursue higher education but to attend a university directly after high school graduation, additional funds through financial aid were needed.

With the help of the Dorrance Scholarship, which is designed specifically for first-generation students, and the ASU Leadership Scholarship Program, which is designed for students looking to make a difference in their communities, Reyes earned herself an open door to create her own sense of identity and purpose at Arizona State University.

While Reyes had wonderful scholarships and a loving family to get her through college, it still wasn’t easy feeling alone.

“In principle, it was great to know I had their moral support,” she said. “In practice, being a first-generation college student is extremely difficult because you don’t feel like you have people that can relate to what you’re going through.” 

Reyes pushed through, but it was “a group effort” full of the uncertainties that come with self-discovery. As someone passionate about helping young people succeed, she began as an education major but soon discovered that teaching wasn’t for her. After changing majors to family and human development at the suggestion of her scholarship coordinator, she never looked back. 

Not everyone understood her choice of major, however, because “it wasn’t a terminal degree in the way people who study engineering go on to become engineers,” she said. “But the beauty of that is this program teaches you transferable skills necessary to be successful in any profession.”

Related: Former Sun Devil makes strides against opioid epidemic

Several years after undergrad, Reyes earned her MEd in school counseling and is now the assistant director of recruitment for ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She spends every day using her personal experiences to help first-generation high school students see their own potential to pursue higher education. As a student who felt inspired by watching other people achieve their goals, she describes it as a “full-circle experience” with “endless opportunities to help others.”

Life as a first-generation student wasn’t easy, but Reyes made it through and has a fulfilling career. After graduation, she worked for ASU Admission Services, where she created first-of-its-kind programming designed to help prospective first-generation college students at ASU.

“Happenstance brought me into the recruitment world in higher education, but now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I’m at the intersection of helping people explore what their professional dreams are, providing college-going support to underrepresented communities, and empowering people to pursue higher education,” she said.

The Sun Devil also leveraged her experience and talents when she was a participant of the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Corps, where she developed a high school achievement program called Soñadoras, in addition to previously being a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. 

“I truly have found my passion in life helping others,” Reyes said.

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Collaboration is key to future of health care workforce, panel says


September 22, 2022

Collaboration is the key to shaping the future health care workforce, said health leaders at a recent panel discussion.

That was the overwhelming consensus among experts and attendees alike at “The Future Health Workforce: Insights and Solutions” discussion. The event, hosted by Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions, took place at the ASU California Center, located in the historic Herald Examiner building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Woman speaking into microphone behind a lectern on a stage on which two other people are seated behind a table. A sign behind them reads "ASU California Center." College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer (left) introduces Dr. Donna Elliott and Dr. Michael Kanter at the panel discussion "The Future Health Workforce: Insights and Solutions" at the ASU California Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 16. Photo by Carl Jimenez/ASU Download Full Image

Moderated by College of Health Solutions Dean and Professor Deborah Helitzer, panelists Dr. Donna Elliott, vice dean and professor of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Michael Kanter, professor and chair of the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, responded to the question of how colleges and universities can prepare students to meet the challenges presented by our health care system.

Both noted physicians and educators said future doctors and other health care providers must learn how to work with others in order to deliver better health outcomes.

High test scores won’t be enough

Elliott said high MCAT scores and grade point averages won’t be the most valuable assets for people applying to medical schools.

“As medical schools go about screening the large number of applicants for those who can succeed in their institutions and medicine in general, they are looking for students who have evidence of ability to function as a team,” Elliott said.

Kanter said that modern medicine offers health care providers the opportunity to consume large amounts of data about conditions and patients. But he said finding solutions to those concerns requires more than just being able to sift through raw data.

“Data by itself is useless, and I would argue that the information, by itself, is almost as useless,” Kanter said. “It’s really the implementation of that information that needs to happen. Students need to learn how to convert data to information and information into change. It involves leadership, thinking, how to work in teams and how to educate. I think those are general skills that will move that learning cycle along.”

Future doctors need a broad-based curriculum

Following the discussion, the health leaders took questions from the audience about what they have learned, what they are challenged by and how we must reenvision health education and the workforce to reduce disparities and prepare for a better future through collaboration, transformation and innovation. Helitzer then closed the discussion by asking what schools such as the College of Health Solutions at ASU could do to better prepare students for medical school.

Elliott said that of the traditional pre-med training that was in place when she went to medical school — subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, calculus and English it is the language skills that were most useful.

She said that today’s medical students need a broader-based curriculum.

“It’s the breadth of education now,” Elliott said. “We need students who are thinkers, not memorizers. Students who can think and imagine and apply what they learn.The more opportunities they have to do that before we get them, as well as after we get them, is what’s most important.”

The complete recording of the live discussion is available on the College of Health Solutions' Youtube channel.

This panel on "The Future Health Workforce" was part of a series of events to mark the ASU expansion in California at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. The events are open to the public and designed to share ideas and explore collaborations on issues facing our communities.

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions