For Citlaly Orozco ’15, just getting to class was an education. A commuter student who lived at home with her family, she took the city bus from East LA to LMU’s Westchester campus each day, observing the spectrum of LA neighborhoods as she crossed town.
As a commuter and a first-generation college student, Citlaly struggled to adjust. “I was late to my very first class of college because the bus ran late,” she remembers. “I cried on the bus, thinking, ‘Is my professor going to be mad at me?’” But as a member of the First-to-Go community, Citlaly had two first-year courses with other “first-gen” students, and her professors, mentors, and peers helped her start to feel like she belonged.
“People are so open here,” she says. “So many students are really committed to social justice. Professors are always ready to help you out.”
Citlaly didn’t let her initial challenges – or her cross-city commute – stop her from becoming an active scholar on campus. She ambitiously pursued two majors, Chicana/o Studies and Urban Studies, the latter inspired by the changing urban landscapes she witnessed out the bus window each day. She held multiple off-campus internships while at LMU, including a position at Leadership for Urban Renewal (LURN), a community development organization in Boyle Heights. There, she planned a program to help local corner stores sell healthier food, and studied gentrification and development in the neighborhood.
As she got more comfortable on campus, Citlaly made it her mission to help other newcomers at LMU feel at home. She worked in Campus Ministry, coordinating Latino Overnight retreats for fellow Latina/o students. She mentored first-years in the First-to-Go community. She also joined Sigma Lambda Gamma, a multicultural sorority in which she grew personally while also helping create a space of welcome and support for the other women in the group.
Now that she’s graduated, Citlaly’s commitment to empowering others continues. In her first job out of college, she is teaching college test prep courses at a Highland Park public charter school with a high Latina/o population. She is also doing test prep of her own, as she studies to take the GRE this spring. She plans to pursue a teaching credential and a master’s in education policy, because she says, “I got an amazing education, and I want as many people as possible to have access to that opportunity, too.”