July 27, 2021

Citlalli Celis

Citlalli Celis, a first-generation college graduate from the class of 2021, wants to be an educator.

Citlalli explains:

“Ever since I was little I’ve always admired teachers, and especially throughout my whole middle school and high school career. During that time, I grew really close bonds to two of my teachers, and I think that really encouraged me to pursue a degree which would allow me to become an educator. I’ve always wanted to work around little children and be in that world, so maybe I’ll end up being a Kindergarten teacher.”

Citlalli was born and raised in Phoenix and graduated from North High School in 2017. She recently received a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University and graduated summa cum laude.

Citlalli adds that the transition from high school to college was challenging, but also rewarding,

“Starting at ASU really was culture shock for me, because I came from a high school made up mostly of minorities, and ASU seems to be more majorities, so it was definitely and interesting transition. But, it’s also opened a lot of doors for me and I have definitely liked the whole”

Citlalli is among the hundreds of high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned scholarships from Education Forward Arizona. The scholarship provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses and also specialized mentoring services through a team of “Success Advisers.”

Citlalli’s Success Adviser was Matt Sotelo, “Not every scholarship is there to support you, and keep you on track throughout your college journey, with the goal of finishing in four years. But with Matt, he’s always there to encourage you and ask how you’re doing, not only school-wise but life-wise. So, it was nice to always have that cheerleader there for me, and especially the consistency of his guidance and support.”

And so far as the financial support element of the scholarship, “It’s definitely one of the biggest advantages I have, because I never thought that I would be able to go to a four-year university. Once I learned about the Education Forward Arizona scholarship, I realized how much I can do with it, and it’s also allowed me stay on campus which is one of the bigger advantages I have as opposed to some of my peers, who live off campus.”

Meanwhile, Citalli tells us that her parents were a major source of encouragement to pursue a college education, and that her involvement with the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program was another big influence, “This program was definitely another major source of support and inspiration I had through much of my middle and high school years. It’s another program which I highly encourage students to get involved with, because that support system helps you go a long way and you meet so many wonderful people, who can become your long-term friends.”

According the to the ASU website, the ‘Hispanic Mother-Daughter program is an early-outreach middle and high school program designed to increase the number of first-generation Arizona students who are qualified and prepared to enroll at Arizona State University through direct family involvement.’

Beyond the books, Citlalli devotes a lot of her energy to her sorority,

“I joined a multicultural sorority called Gamma Alpha Omega, through which I gained a whole sisterhood. I served as fundraising chair at the sorority, and we put together events like a soccer tournament. It was really exciting because with the soccer tournament we were definitely helping to raise funds for one of our scholarships. And, I think that’s one of my aspirations in life – helping other people, and empowering other people.”

Citlalli has some advice for middle and high school students considering their own college options and opportunities,

“One of my main tips is to never be afraid to ask for help. I feel that for a lot of us first-year students it can be kind of nerve-wracking to ask for help but know that there is always someone out there that is going to help, and who has the resources and time. So, never be afraid to ask for help because there are a lot of people willing to help you.”

Throughout her undergrad career she was involved with her sorority, Gamma Alpha Omega, and served in numerous leadership roles including president, service chair, and membership educator. During her summer breaks, she would work at the Arizona Science Center helping come up with educational programming for youth. She was recently accepted into Teach For America and has been assigned to a position in Idaho for Fall 2021.