New film features students sharing personal stories about their ASU success in Spanish
By ASU News I October 2, 2023
“Do I belong?” Those three words ran through Pedro Gonzalez-Ochoa’s mind before he began his college experience at Arizona State University.
The 22-year-old is now working toward his master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Barrett, The Honors College. Not only does Gonzalez-Ochoa belong at ASU, he’s thriving — and his success is captured on film.
During a special red carpet premiere at ASU’s West campus on Oct. 1, hundreds of Hispanic families had the opportunity to watch the “College Tour en Español,” a 30-minute film narrated by Gonzalez-Ochoa and several other Sun Devils, which is scheduled for livestreaming on Amazon Prime later this year.
The film is the first produced by ASU exclusively in Spanish and it’s designed to reach Latino students and inspire them to go on to college.
The episode provides a sweeping visual tour of ASU where 10 Sun Devils share their personal academic journeys at the most innovative university in the country; one that has increasingly enrolled more students of Hispanic descent throughout the years.
Last year, ASU was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which means at least 25% of its student body identifies as Hispanic or Latino. The university has also earned the prestigious Seal of Excelencia in education for the second year in a row.
But despite numerous accolades and advancements, there continues to be barriers for Hispanic students, both real and perceived.
“When my mother was 17 and pregnant, she made the decision to leave Mexico and give me a better life,” Gonzalez-Ochoa said.
He invited his mother to the film’s premiere where students were asked questions about their struggles after the viewing. Gonzalez-Ochoa said his mother faced financial hardship after coming to America. When he got to college, homework became difficult but he always kept his mother in mind and persevered.
“It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of (graduating from college). These highs mean nothing to me if I can’t share them with her,” Gonzalez-Ochoa said.
The film focuses on student choices and personalized learning experiences at ASU’s distinct campuses, as well as the degrees available through ASU Online. The desire to learn with a focus on technology is one of the reasons why Mexican immigrant Sandra Perez opted to study at ASU.
Shortly after she began her studies, Perez’s husband passed away and she thought of quitting often. She is now earning a Master of Science in program evaluation and data analytics.
“As immigrants, we put obstacles in front of us that are not really there,” said Perez. “I knew I wanted to participate in the ‘College Tour en Español’ immediately. I just hope this film reaches worldwide audiences.”
Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president for outreach within ASU’s Educational Outreach and Students Services, presided over the discussion after the premiere and talked about the numerous resources available to Latino students at ASU.
“We intentionally provide one of the most world-class college experiences accessible to any and all students, and to students who are not yet qualified; we create pathways to admission,” Ruiz said.
“I am very thankful to ASU for all the financial aid I have received,” said Fatima Botello, an ASU undergraduate and Obama Scholar.
Botello is set to graduate in May 2024 with degrees in psychology and Spanish literature and culture.
“I am basically here on a full ride and, honestly, would not be here had it not been for ASU,” she said.
ASU’s affordability was highlighted several times during the film’s premiere. Ninety percent of Arizona residents receive some form of financial assistance or scholarships, and all Arizona residents that are Pell grant eligible pay $0 in tuition thanks to the Arizona Promise Program.
After the premiere, ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales presented each participating student with a $1,000 scholarship to continue their studies, courtesy of ASU and Helios Education Foundation. She stressed that Hispanic students do belong at ASU.
“Just listening to these stories shows that our model is working but having a 26% Hispanic student body rate is not enough. Those numbers need to continue to rise,” Gonzales said. “I am immensely proud of the incredible students who volunteered to tell their stories in order to inspire future ASU students. They represent the best of our Latino students, a community that now totals more than 31,000 students enrolled.”
Helios President and CEO Paul Luna also encouraged students who are still deciding on college to take the initiative and enroll at ASU.
“Whatever your reasons are for holding back, you must know that ASU is the type of university that works with every student and all families to make sure they come out successful,” Luna said.
When asked if all their efforts were worth it, all 10 students were in agreement.
“Claro que si,” they said. Translation: “Absolutely it was, yes!”
Top photo: Attendees watch the premiere of the “College Tour en Espanol” during a special event at ASU’s West campus.