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North Sacramento youngsters get a taste of University life

Students from the Benito Juarez Neighborhood Association join University President Robert S. Nelsen (back right) in a "Stingers Up!" (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

As she made her way across Sacramento State’s sprawling campus with other youngsters, 9-year-old Teya Garcia soaked up the ambience and asked question after question.

Where is the best place to study? What kinds of clubs are on campus? Where do Music students take their classes?

And, finally, “Can I go to Sac State when I get older?”

Tour guide Ethan Hanf shows off the University campus to Benito Juarez Neighborhood Assocation students on a July 21 visit. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

The answer from tour guide Ethan Hanf was an emphatic “Yes!”

Garcia was one of more than 40 students from North Sacramento’s Benito Juarez Neighborhood Association who visited the University on July 21. The visit was part of an effort to encourage young people, particularly those from migrant backgrounds, to start thinking about going to college and becoming Hornets one day.

Sac State administrators and special guests addressed the students in Spanish before they separated into small groups for campus tours and lunch.

Among the speakers were Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra, who grew up an undocumented immigrant and graduated from Sac State; University President Robert S. Nelsen; and Viridiana Diaz, associate vice president for Strategic Student Support.

“Sí, se puede!” Guerra shouted after welcoming the students and telling his story. “Yes, we can!”

“My message is ‘Have pride in your culture, pride in yourself,’” Guerra said later. “Also, the importance of asking for help and accepting help.

“Once I was able to do those things as an undocumented farmworker, that’s when my life changed. And it didn’t just change my life. It changed my family’s life.”

Guerra said his experiences inspired his brother, sister, and mother to pursue education.

Ramona Landeros, founder of the Benito Juarez Neighborhood Association and a community advocate, has a similar story. As a student at Sac State, she participated in the College Assistance Migrant Program and later founded the campus Multi-Cultural Center. 

“I realized that through education I had the ability to make changes and have a voice,” Landeros said.

She hopes the students who visited campus Wednesday receive that message.

“They come from farmworker families,” she said. “This allows them to see themselves as college students, see themselves as future leaders.”

Hanf kept his tour group of seven young scholars engaged as he showed off the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, the University Union, The WELL, and various academic buildings.

The Union, he said, is a great place to grab a burger or Chinese food, socialize with friends, or take a nap, among other things. He pointed out prime spots on campus for seeing turkeys and squirrels, talked about Sac State’s 3,000 trees, and described the Academic Information Resource Center as “a great big study hall” with comfortable chairs and a peaceful atmosphere. He praised the Sac State faculty. He talked about campus clubs and activities and encouraged students to “do everything when you’re in college. Do everything you can, and find out what you like.”

By the end of the tour Garcia, a fourth-grader at Bell Avenue Elementary School, needed no convincing.

“I like everything about Sac State,” she said, gesturing across the Library Quad, toting a sparkly backpack.

“I want to live here!”


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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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