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Latina leaders relive graduation memories

October 15, 2007

For five Latina leaders, this year’s Homecoming is more than just a fun celebration. It’s an occasion to celebrate a lifetime of friendship and the recognition that a journey has come full circle – not just for them, but for their sons as well.

Latina community leaders Irma S. Dominguez, Hilda C. Hipolito-Celaya, Anita Luera, Lily Molina and Sandy Zapien-Ferrero will join ASU’s

Homecoming festivities the week of Oct. 21-27 to celebrate their 30th graduation anniversary.

For Luera, who earned her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism, the experience is simply exhilarating. A seasoned TV reporter of 27 years,

Luera now works as director of high school programs at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She travels around Arizona recruiting future journalism students. Her son, Armando Favela Luera, is studying aerospace engineering at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

“It makes me feel young again,” Luera says. “When you’re in college, you’re just starting to experience a world outside of home. It’s exciting to relive those moments, and to know that your children are experiencing the same. However, you also tend to ask, ‘Where did time go?’ It flew by.”

While all five ladies agree that time just seems to have passed by, they also believe that they have achieved many of the goals they planned for themselves when younger.

“My biggest dream was to inspire young people to continue their education through college,” says Ferrero, who earned her bachelor’s in elementary education. “Just out of school I chose to work in a Title I district to be a model for all students, especially Latinas. I accomplished my goals. Many of my students finished their college degrees.”

Ferrero recently retired after 30 years at the Isaac School District working as a teacher, principal, district program director and associate superintendent. Her son, Paul R. Ferrero, graduated from ASU this spring in multicultural elementary education. Following his mother’s streak, he is teaching seventh-grade math at Isaac Middle School – a partner in the ASU ALPHA Program.

For all of these women, getting a college education was not just an issue of academic goals, but family success.

“My biggest aspiration was to graduate and make my parents proud,” Celaya says. “Neither had schooling past the third grade. Seeing my parents struggle financially but managing to raise a family of 10 children in a loving and warm family environment, I knew I wanted to do more to make them proud.”

However, Celaya also credits the ASU environment as a catalyst for her academic successes and motivation for community service.

“My mentor was Dr. Christina Marin, head of Chicano Studies and Hayden Library,” Celaya says. “She was our Latina mentor. She helped so many of us realize that we could make it through college. She was always available to listen to our concerns and insecurities, and always encouraged us.”

Celaya majored in social work and has worked for nearly 30 years as a state employee. She manages eight counselors as a vocational rehabilitation supervisor with the State of Arizona. However, she’s planning to retire soon. Her son, Eddie Celaya III, is a Sun Devil who expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning.

As a nursing major, Dominguez also felt a deep sense of service to her community. However, of her years at ASU, she remembers most the great camaraderie everyone shared.

“In the ’70s at ASU, very few minority students chose nursing as a career,” she says. “I felt alone. I didn’t have any mentors that I can recall. But I did have my friends from the ‘Chicano Bush.’ ”

The “Chicano Bush” was a knee-high planter in front of the old Hayden Library. While there were Latino student organizations at the time, most Latinos would “hang-out by the bush.”

“I think that is why those of us who hung out at the bush bonded so well,” Dominguez says. “We needed to not feel so alone and lost on campus. The majority of us are still friends today.”

Dominguez is planning to retire next spring after 29 years of working as a nurse for the Maricopa Integrated Health System. She plans to work part-time doing something different, but probably still involving nursing. Her son, Carlos Dominguez, is studying at Mesa Community College and is considering a transfer to ASU.

As for revisiting the past after 30 years Dominguez says, “As simplistic as it sounds, all I wanted was to help people. If given the choice, I would do it all over again.”

Special reunion activities (tours, lunches, class mixers) are planned for the reunion classes of 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987 and 1997, but everyone is invited back to take part in Homecoming Oct. 27. Visitors can come for the parade, Block Party and football game against California, in addition to many other activities planned by the different colleges. Visitors also can drop by the ASU Alumni Association tents during the Block Party to say hello. There will be little treats for children, a live band and Waldo’s BBQ, where ASU fans can buy lunch to eat in the alumni area and hang out with other Sun Devils.

For more details, visit the Web site

Chakris Kussalanant,
(480) 727-9181
Media Relations, Office of Public Affairs