NAU–Yuma student Katany Cardenas smiling at someone. NAU–Yuma student Katany Cardenas smiling at someone.
Education & Service 

Leading by example: teaching in the community

Arizona Western College College Assistance Migrant Program (AWC) elementary education first-generation Hispanic NAU–Yuma
NAU–Yuma student Katany Cardenas smiling at someone.

Katany Cardenas is determined to give back to her community by becoming a first-grade teacher. NAU–Yuma is helping her get there.

NAU–Yuma Elementary Education student Katany Cardenas wants to be a role model to her future students, just as her teachers were to her. Cardenas grew up in Mexico, near the border. A first-generation college student, she credits the CAMP program with guiding her path to NAU–Yuma.

CAMP, the College Assistance Migrant Program at Arizona Western College (AWC), is a federally funded program that helps students with migrant or seasonal farm-working backgrounds prepare for college and provides support including tutoring, financial aid, and dorm housing.

Cardenas knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. “I want to give back to my community,” she says. “And it’s something I know I’m good at.”

She also knew that she wanted to attend NAU after finishing her first two years at AWC. “I knew NAU was the best for education,” she says. “I knew that it was a teacher university. And most of my teachers in high school came from here.”

Attending the Yuma campus also made sense. She is close to home and, like her, many of her teachers and fellow students are Hispanic. From Yuma, she’ll be able to do her student teaching in her home community.

It has been a good decision, she says. “It’s going great. I really like my classes and my professors and everything. NAU is a safe space.”

After she graduates in 2024, she wants to teach first grade somewhere in the border area where she can inspire students to follow their dreams, whatever those may be. “Teachers are raising up the next generation,” she says. “If someone wants to be a doctor or artist or anything, you are the first one there. And it’s cool to say, ‘Oh, he was my student.’”

She has a strong message for other potential NAU students. “I highly recommend NAU because they really want you to succeed,” Cardenas says. “They make sure you can go to school, and you can get transportation, get grants, get scholarships. They are really helpful. They give you all of these resources. And it’s a place that feels like home.”

It’s the kind of safe, engaging, and supportive environment she wants to provide to her students. Her first graders are going to love her.