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First YA! Program students graduate college

May 29, 2018

This spring, CLUES is celebrating the first three Youth in Action (YA!) Program participants to graduate from college! The YA! Program began in 2011, and since then we have guided more than 120 high school students to achieve their hopes and dreams through one-on-one mentoring, coaching institutes, academic support and community service-learning projects.

Our first college graduate, Xochitl Rodriguez Sanchez, graduated from Augsburg University this spring with a double major in International Business and Management and minors in Spanish and International Relations. We talked with Xochitl about her journey and how the YA! Program helped her along the way.

What is a moment or accomplishment you are especially proud of?

I am the first in my family to go to college and will be the first to graduate. I am also proud of having gotten to this point, even as a DACAmented student. It is very significant to my family and me because we weren’t sure if college was even going to be a possibility. There were several obstacles, from not having status to not being able to pay for the tuition. Up until 2012, I didn’t really believe it was going to be a possibility. After I received DACA it was a more tangible dream. I had some form of status and a way to get a job and pay for the school.

How have you stayed involved with CLUES, and why?

I continue to stay involved with CLUES through the YA! program. I help during the institutes from start to end, in any capacity. Some institutes I am paired with a student, and others I just help facilitate.

I think it is important to give back to the community. Thanks to the program I was able to envision myself succeeding, and I believe that if students see that others have made it or are making it, their hopes and dreams will seem easier to achieve.

I also believe that we are all in this together, and by giving back and helping out I think we can better ourselves individually and as a whole. I want to see more Latinos graduating from high school, going to college and graduating. We are very underrepresented in so many areas, and having more people step up to the plate is crucial to have our community be uplifted into success.

Why do you think programs like YA! are important?

It is important because it provides access to families who are unfamiliar with the process of how to obtain a college education. It also brings to the forefront the possibility of attending college and builds the repertoire for success in obtaining a college education.

I recall sitting in one of the lessons for FAFSA, which I couldn’t apply for because of my status, but still thinking how important this was because my brothers would be going through the process a couple of years after me. I know my parents are grateful in having the knowledge of how to help their children and knowing where they need to be to graduate.

What message or advice do you have for younger Latino students?

Even with all the obstacles placed in front of you, nothing is impossible. Where there is a will, there is a way.

I recall that at that point in time while I was in high school, I was my own greatest obstacle. Thinking that everything in front of me was there so that I would fail, and that it was for certain that it would hold me back, a lot. But the need to prove that it was all wrong kept me going. Just because you believe that you won’t make it doesn’t mean that others don’t believe in you, and that was key for me.

Surround yourself with people who cheer you on when you are at your lowest. It’s ok to lose people, especially if they aren’t people who believe in you and your capabilities. Always move forward and don’t be afraid to envision yourself succeeding. By doing so, you’ll feel it become more and more real until you finally achieve your success and exceed your expectation, because from the beginning you were more than capable.


CLUES congratulates Xochitl and all our graduating seniors on their incredible accomplishments! We are excited to see where your paths will lead and are honored to have been a part of your journey. You are always a part of the CLUES family!

If you would like to support students like Xochitl in achieving their hopes and dreams, consider becoming YA! Program mentor or making a donation to the YA! Program Scholarship Fund. Thanks to a generous donation from the Land O’ Lakes Amigos group, all donations will be matched up to $5,000! Learn more here.

Posted in CLUES Blog by CLUES Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio