Building Connections and Paving a Path to Opportunity

Guadalupe Arriaga grew up in the Central Valley, the rural, agricultural economy and the tight-knit community leaving a lasting impression on her childhood. She chose to study at Fresno State because she wanted to stay close to home throughout her college career and because it was an affordable, yet still attainable university for a first-generation student. Arriaga was fearful of moving away and after researching all of the programs and support networks Fresno State offered, she realized they would open the door to numerous opportunities for her. 

Remembering back to her freshman year of college, Arriaga reflects on some of the lessons she learned, one of which was staying on track with her degree plan in order to accelerate her time in classes. From the inception of her academic career, Arriaga’s goal was to obtain a degree and find a job as soon as possible. She was constantly looking for ways to connect with people, reaching out for help from academic counselors and searching out new opportunities that presented themselves. When first entering her classes, Arriaga was insecure with her writing skills and current knowledge, so she began to take advantage of the services offered by the tutoring center on a regular basis. Looking back, she realizes that she didn’t necessarily need all of these services, but it was having the security and reassurance that she was not alone in her journey. 

Arriaga explains how actively participating in projects and organizations on campus while taking a strong role in the direction of her learning helped her to stay on track. She explains how college is never the end of the road, since after graduating more challenges and obstacles presented themselves. However, with the valuable skills and lessons she learned at Fresno State, she was able to tackle them confidently. One of the accomplishments Arriaga is most proud of is the fact that she did not owe any loans after graduation and was able to avoid college debt entirely. She remembers working two to three jobs to cover tuition while still finding time to study and attend to her educational responsibilities. While at Fresno State, Arriaga was part of a program called Interact, which is a leadership program that helps with counseling and leading young adults. Toward the end of her undergraduate degree, Arriaga did begin to receive scholarships and grants which helped ease the burden of working full time. 

Currently, Arriaga is a teacher at Orange Center Elementary which belongs to a small, family-oriented district. Many parents send their children to this particular school because it is one they attended growing up and one where they made many fond memories on campus. Arriaga loves working with bilingual students and finding ways to implement Spanish in her classroom. She teaches the second grade and one of her greatest joys is seeing her students speaking in their native tongue and feeling comfortable being fluent in multiple languages. Arriaga is also part of several school committees, where she is able to offer input and help make decisions for the school. She has been featured multiple times on PBS where she talks about child education. Orange Center Elementary also hosts a variety of cultural events for their students, such as altar decorating and traditional potlucks. Arriaga is grateful for the work ethic and drive which Fresno State instilled in her. She was always busy and productive as a student at the university, two traits which remain consistent even in her lifestyle now. 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development .)

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