Social work without borders

“When I was younger, I never liked going to school,” Osvaldo Luna said. “But along the way, I had teachers who made me love learning because it makes me a better human by helping me make choices that are grounded on facts and not just personal biases or values.”

From a young age, Luna knew he wanted to help people, and he knew he wanted a college degree. Growing up in the border town of Yuma, a proud son of migrant farmworkers, starting his path to higher education at Arizona Western College (AWC) felt like a natural starting point. They had a program in criminal justice, so after high school, he enrolled at AWC and graduated with his associate of arts degree in 2019. But during his time at AWC, he decided he wasn’t interested in a career in criminal justice.   

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure what program to pursue—that is, until I took a night course at AWC with Ruth Whisler,” Luna said. “I took Dr. Whisler’s introductory course to social work, and I instantly fell in love with the material.” 

During those courses, Luna learned that same professor also was a full-time faculty member at NAU Yuma, in the Bachelor of Social Work program (BSW).  

“I asked her if I could apply for the program since I loved the material she was teaching, and I felt the urge to pursue a career in social work, so I applied and got accepted!” 

The most memorable part of Luna’s experience has been his faculty. Even before he had been accepted into the BSW program at NAU Yuma, Whisler was guiding Luna through the process of applying and being understanding of his situation at the time. 

“To this day I consider Dr. Whisler as a mentor as she has been there for me when I need her,” he said. “Same goes for professor Kara Ahearn, who has always helped me, especially when I get a bad case of imposter syndrome.” 

 Ahearn recognized Luna’s talents and skills and helped match him with an internship about which he was passionate, enabling him to work with low-income, farm worker populations through Campesinos Sin Fronteras.  

“This nonprofit organization is dedicated to serving members of low-income, migrant and agricultural communities in Yuma County,” Ahearn said. “Luna’s personal experiences and his passion for improving his community has consistently been a driving force in his success and his dedication to the physical and emotional well-being of vulnerable populations along the U.S./Mexico Border. It is an inspiration.” 

Luna has been working with Campesinos Sin Fronteras for the better part of a year and appreciated the opportunity to serve low-income families and farm workers, just like his family.  

“During my time at Campesinos, I have worked with adults, seniors and youth,” he said. “I have come to learn how to work with each group, learning some immigration law, the effects of substance abuse and chronic illness. The biggest takeaway from my time at Campesinos Sin Fronteras will be the friendships I created and the fact that I love working with youth despite my initial reservations.”  

After graduation, Luna plans to go right into the Master of Social Work (MSW) program offered in Yuma. While he admits to feeling a little burnt out from school, he wants to finish his MSW as quickly as possible so he can get out into the community to connect farm workers, children and other underserved populations with the resources they need to lead a happy and successful life.  


Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
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NAU Communications