image title

ASU student comes full circle with focus on diabetes prevention

May 19, 2023

Jocelyn Diaz Sanchez, who participated in ASU program as a child, now works with same program

According to Gabriel Shaibi, it was luck that brought him and Jocelyn Diaz Sanchez together in their work to prevent diabetes among high-risk and vulnerable populations, especially among Hispanic families, throughout the Valley. 

Shaibi, an associate professor and Southwest Borderlands Scholar in Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, was introduced to Diaz Sanchez, an interdisciplinary studies major at ASU, at an academic symposium where she was training families on healthier eating and lifestyles to prevent diabetes. 

“She was not in any of my classes, but she was presenting and I learned about all this amazing work that she's doing with diabetes prevention and Hispanic families,” Shaibi said. “So I got to know who she was and always thought very highly of her.”

Her presentation showcased the work she does as a community health educator at Saint Vincent de Paul in a program called Every Little Step Counts, a community-based, family-centered diabetes prevention program focused on intervention, including nutrition, education and physical activity, that Shaibi and his team began in 2015. The program now includes a research component, which Diaz Sanchez supports.

Headshot of

Jocelyn Diaz Sanchez

RELATED: Exercise and education: Diabetes prevention work helps local Latino children, families

Serendipity would also have it that when Diaz Sanchez was 10 years old, she participated in Every Little Step Counts after she was diagnosed with prediabetes. 

“My doctor at the time referred me over to St. Vincent where registered dieticians would offer nutrition education and tips on how to eat a more balanced meal and live a healthier life,” she said. “At the time, it was just me and my mom that would attend the classes.

“After that, I really took my health and my mental health seriously, and I was like ‘I need to work with other people. I need to spread this information. I need to help others.' Like, there's no way I'm gonna keep this to myself.’” 

Now, 10 years later, Diaz Sanchez is leading those exact classes as a certified lifestyle coach through the National Diabetes Prevention Program, and is inspired to serve other Latino families who are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes than people of non-Hispanic, white descent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

“I am of course very passionate about everything that I do about helping my community,” she said. “Now I get to teach my community about how to be healthy.” 

The impact Diaz Sanchez is making for local Hispanic families didn’t just get Shaibi’s attention. This spring, she was appointed as one of eight of her peers from across the U.S. to a diabetes prevention advisory board for the National Institutes of Health, where she and her counterparts will have direct input for holistic, inclusive research. Each of the advisory board members represent individuals with lived experience who can help inform research across 15 cities nationwide. 

“Her dedication and commitment to ensuring that the community is best represented shows how she's serving as an advocate for bringing resources and building capacity,” Shaibi said.

For researchers, Shaibi said it is important that their studies don’t just give something to the communities impacted by diabetes, but to ensure their research encompasses and connects with communities in such a way that it includes students and individuals like Diaz Sanchez. 

“It's a balance between the best academic work and the best community work. She embodies both of those. To me that's pretty special and pretty unique,” Shabi said.

This summer, Diaz Sanchez will travel to Washington, D.C., to convene with her peers on the advisory board and is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in public health. 

“My real passion is in helping others, and health is the perfect place to be able to do that," she said. "I've come a long way, definitely.”

Top photo by Jorge Alcazar Narvaez via iStock

Krista Hinz

Copy Writer , ASU Media Relations

image title

Earned Admissions offers student second chance at college

May 19, 2023

ASU undergraduate student credits innovative program with turning his life around after illness

James Galica was in third grade when he decided that school was not for him. It was 1999, and his older brother, Galica’s self-described “idol,” had just dropped out of high school. 

“I went from a kid excited to go to school to a nuisance who could not wait for school to be over every day,” Galica says. 

One day, in high school, he found himself without much of a choice. What started as a case of pneumonia during Galica's junior year ended up with Galica being hospitalized for a significant portion of his senior year. His health issues inspired a change of heart. 

“I realized because of my health that I did not want to end up like my brother. I wanted a chance to prove myself.” 

Balancing health and education

Photo of

James Galica

Although he managed to graduate high school, the next several years would be a whirlwind for Galica. His health continued to deteriorate, and he found out he would need to have heart surgery, twice. 

After completing rehab from his second heart surgery in 2020, Galica applied to Arizona State University. He was crushed to discover he was denied admission, not only to ASU but to all of the universities he had applied to. 

ASU, however, offered James an alternate pathway to college: a spot in the Earned Admissions program.

‘Earned Admissions’ enables a fresh start

The Earned Admissions program at ASU gives prospective students like Galica the opportunity to enroll in first-year ASU college courses, all online. Students only pay if they pass the course, and class fees are deeply discounted. If students complete all required Universal Learner Courses with a GPA of 2.75 or higher, they become eligible for admission to ASU. Credits can also be used toward other universities if students wish.

This unique program allows potential students to “test the waters” of college. 

For Galica, the transition into college-level work via the Universal Learner Courses challenged him, but ultimately proved transformational.

“Not every class is going to be easy,” James says. “If it’s hard, that’s OK. Don’t think that you aren’t meant for college. I promise, that first term where you haven’t done school in so long — there’s so much, but it will get so much easier.”

Galica ended up passing the program with flying colors. He attributes his success to the patience of his ASU professors, who were always willing to meet with him and reexplain a concept when he felt stuck. Most of all, Galica says he was inspired to persevere through the program by the example of his mother, a paralegal whose work ethic always impressed him.

Taking classes online also helped Galica develop his own work ethic and discipline.

“Yes, the TV’s there. Yes, my phone’s there,” he says. “But I need to block those things out and do everything I can to get my work done.” 

The online modality was also critical in allowing Galica to continue his schooling during the pandemic, as his health status precluded him from attending classes in person.

Now a junior at ASU, Galica says he would “never in a million years” be in this position without the Earned Admissions program. 

Intentional design for accessibility and opportunity

“The Earned Admissions program has been a vital bridge to get people like James into college,” says Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise — the arm of ASU that focuses on creating learning opportunities at every stage of life. “James’ story is so important because it shows us that we need to create a multitude of options and on-ramps to higher education — it cannot be a one-size-fits-all design. Everyone at the ASU Learning Enterprise is so proud of what he has accomplished.”

The technology-forward, affordable and accessible nature of the Earned Admissions program epitomizes the mission of ASU’s Learning Enterprisewhich serves as one of three core functions of the ASU Enterprise, along with Academic Enterprise and Knowledge Enterprise. 

Learning Enterprise was born from the understanding that the traditional college experience and admissions process excludes many promising students, such as parents juggling family life, adults over 65 and those like Galica, who require an online schooling option. 

In creating flexible, innovative learning opportunities such as the Earned Admissions program, Learning Enterprise makes ASU’s extensive assets in research, teaching and technology available to the wider community. 

Paying it forward

After Galica’s acceptance into ASU, he decided to major in history. He credits finding the right major — and discussing class selections with his advisory team — with keeping him engaged.

Jeffrey Cohen, ASU’s dean of humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recognizes Galica as a powerful exemplar of the Earned Admissions program.

“Every student deserves to find a path to success,” Cohen says. “No one should be held back by their own past; everyone should have a chance to learn from what life has thrown their way, and be given every tool to triumph. Earned Admissions is a model for what a truly inclusive education should be. We’re proud to have James in our humanities community.”

With three years’ worth of credits under his belt and a desire to pursue a career in law, Galica is now applying lessons learned in his role as a teaching assistant for the online Earned Admissions program.

“If a student turns in something that’s a little rushed, maybe their kid had soccer practice and they had to put off the paper. The role I take as a TA is to help everyone improve their time in the class and, ultimately, their time at ASU,” Galica says.

For those considering the Earned Admissions program, Galica advises keeping an open mind.

“Don’t let your past define you,” he says. “I was not a great student in high school. Now, I love school. You can redefine yourself.”

Written by Annie Costakis and Samantha Becker