Dreams of becoming a Sun Devil finally come true for adult learner

Life experience benefits Ysenia Palma and the people she plans to help

Roses in foreground with ASU building in background

Editor's note: ASU News is highlighting some of its notable incoming students for fall 2023.

At 47, Ysenia Palma will be attending her first semester at Arizona State University this fall — and to her, the timing is perfect.

Palma endured an abusive marriage for 25 years, staying in shelters with her son, and finally healed enough to break free.

Now, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in pyschology, with plans to become a licensed professional counselor to support other women facing similar struggles. 

"I can help others because I have the empathy and the understanding,” Palma said. "My goal is to serve and inspire women."

Palma is transferring from Estrella Mountain Community College to study psychology in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The third-year student will commute from Youngtown, Arizona, to Barrett, The Honors College at ASU's West campus

Here, she talks about her decision to come to ASU.

Woman standing behind lectern

Question: When did you first start thinking about going to ASU? 

Answer: It’s been a dream of mine since I was very young. Of course, there was so much going on in my home life, but it was an idea that I was thinking about for many years. 

It was something I had put in the back of my mind — stuffed way down in the bottom of my heart, and now it is happening. Receiving scholarships is making it possible to pursue my dream and earn my degree at ASU.

Q: Speaking of scholarships, you were a part of the ASU Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program. What did that mean to you? 

A: I felt like, well, people really see the potential in me; and they want to help me. They believe in me, they believe in my dream and they believe in what I want to do.

It's an amazing feeling to have the backing of others.

Q: Why ASU?

A: That was the goal. I've always had a love for Arizona, honestly, even as hot as it is right now. I would never even think about moving. Arizona is my home. So of course I would be going to ASU. It just felt right. I didn't know when I would go, but that was what was in my heart. 

Q: How did you feel when you learned you were going to ASU? 

A: This gets me emotional. I thought, "My dream of actually going to ASU is possible."

I was pretty much like I am right now — speechless. It was something that was really going to happen in my life — it was actually coming to pass.

Q: When you graduate, how will you use your ASU degree?

A: Specifically, I want to work with women who are survivors of domestic violence, domestic abuse. I recently had an internship at the New Life Center, which is a domestic violence shelter.

That experience confirmed that I want to work with this population of people — women and children that are coming out of these situations.

Q: What are you excited about experiencing during your first semester at ASU?

A: Oh, the first word that popped into my mind right now is community. I'm really excited about being a part of Barrett. And I feel like that's a community within the larger community.

I'm excited about the whole experience — making connections with other students and learning. I'm excited about just being there. I think I'm going to cry when I walk into class on the first day of school.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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