Graduate Kenia Guzman: For this first-generation Yuma grad, education was a priority at a young age

Kenia Guzman, a senior studying psychology at NAU Yuma, always wanted to be in the field of helping people.

“I never had a specific job position in mind because even as a child I understood the restrictions behind labels,” Guzman said.

Growing up in the U.S.-Mexico border town of San Luis, Arizona, Guzman understood the importance of education at a young age. She was raised in a multi-generational household of eight, three of whom Guzman considers her moms: her great-aunt, her grandmother and her biological mom. Guzman will be the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree;  both her grandmother and great-aunt had to drop out of school in third grade to help raise their younger siblings while their parents worked in the fields. She recognized the upward mobility a bachelor’s degree provides.

“Hopefully, my success will inspire current and future generations within my family to pursue higher education,” Guzman said. “I’m forever grateful that I had the privilege to graduate high school and pursue higher education. My time at NAU meant a lot to me, but I know for a fact that it meant the most to my family because this is exactly why they moved to the US—to have the opportunity to better ourselves.”

Guzman started at Arizona Western College (AWC), where she earned an associate’s degree before transferring to NAU Yuma. It was there that she met a psychology professor, Brooke Ayars, who also taught at NAU Yuma.

“She made every single one of her lectures interesting,” Guzman said. “I knew I wanted to study psychology under her so I ‘followed’ her to NAU Yuma.”

With the biggest class size being about 40 students, she liked how everyone knew everyone. Guzman and her peers were able to work closely and lean on each other when needed. Sometimes they even formed individual study groups and tutored each other when classes were challenging.

Fascinated by the human mind, Guzman’s curiosity led her to contemplate how different siblings are despite having the same upbringing. She decided to focus her capstone project on relationship maintenance and the social learning theory of relationships. She analyzed and discussed techniques used to maintain relationships and how relationships with parents (or primary caregivers) affects future relationships as adults.

“The close-knit community that I come from has allowed me to improve upon my interpersonal communication skills which will be beneficial for when entering the workforce in counseling,” she said.

Guzman is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling either at ASU or NAU North Valley.

Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications