Dreamer proves that hard work pays off


Christopher Hernandez

When Arizona State University senior Andrea Vasquez started college, she immediately had an idea of the career path she wanted to take.

“I knew from the very beginning what I wanted to do,” Vasquez said. “It was always going to be social work.”

Vasquez is on pace to obtain her bachelor of social work degree from the School of Social Work in Tucson, part of ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Vasquez was born in the small community of Guanajuanto, Mexico, and moved to the United States when she was two years old. Later, she would go to Palo Verde High School, graduating fourth in her class. She played sports, was involved in numerous clubs, including “YES!” Youth Empowerment Solutions which would really help spearhead her passion for social work, specifically with youth – all credentials that would qualify her for academic financial aid.

But for Vasquez, finding funding and scholarship opportunities would be scarce as she was an undocumented citizen.

“Because I was undocumented, I didn’t have the opportunities for scholarships or other grants,” Vasquez said. “FAFSA applications, among others, require social security numbers. It was all so frustrating.”

Fortune however, would turn in Vasquez’s favor; because of a work permit she was able to pay in-state tuition at Pima Community College. While at Pima, she juggled time between three jobs in order to pay tuition, and save to eventually enroll at ASU.

In 2012, President Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, an executive order that allowed those who were gainfully employed and/or were in school could defer action on deportation for a renewable two-year work permit.

“I was so excited, that meant I could continue working and going to school with one less thing to worry about,” she said

Vasquez became more motivated than before. She would eventually transfer to ASU in Tucson where she could not be happier with her situation.

“I love the ASU campus here,” she said. “The classrooms are great, the instructors are awesome and I have gained so much experience and it’s been helpful for me in interviews and for when I interview clients.”

Vasquez also started an internship in August with a local club that helps support low-income Hispanic students in middle school prepare for college. She even still manages to find time to tutor at Palo Verde High School.

“I’ve seen a lot of things go on in schools, and that’s why I want to work in one,” Vasquez said. “Sometimes teachers get too focused on strictly teaching that they lose sight of a student’s personal life. It’s really nice to know that I am working hard so that I can eventually help them (students), and be able to give them advice.”

As her undergraduate career comes to a close, Vazquez does not intend to stop there. She’d like to pursue a master of social work degree.

Josefina Ahumada, coordinator of field education for the School of Social Work in Tucson said, “Andrea is an awesome student who is motivated to serve her community. I have no doubt she will find her way to accomplish her dreams.”