For Yuritzi Jamileth Rosas Hernandez, the path to college was not easy. Growing up a girl of color in predominantly white schools, she often felt like the “odd one out” and sensed that the people charged with helping her succeed didn’t believe she was college material.
Her parents were the exception, having moved the family from Mexico to Utah with hopes of building a brighter future – one that prioritized college.
“I always knew I wanted to get my degree, I knew it would open doors, but I couldn’t always see the path to get there,” Rosas Hernandez said.
Aside from high school counselors who overlooked her potential, Rosas Hernandez was also shy. And as a first-generation college student, she had to navigate admissions and enrollment on her own.
Now, three years into her college experience, she’s a dual business major in marketing and economics at Weber State University, minoring in women and gender studies. Learn more about her in this video.
“Weber State was not my first choice,” she said. “But it’s become my favorite choice because of the support I get when I’m here. The professors and admins are great, and I’ve made friends who are like a second family.”
Along with her studies, Rosas Hernandez is immersed in campus life, including the LatinX Grad Ceremony committee, the NAACP student chapter, and the WSU Student Association’s Diversity and Unity team. She also worked at the Women’s Center.
“So here I am, meeting all these wonderful people with different majors and from all walks of life, and I’m like, wow, this is the representation I needed growing up,” she said. “I definitely have found community at Weber State. I’ve learned that my voice matters.”
Her newfound confidence is something she wants other students to experience – only much earlier. She’s looking at ways to support people of color in grades K-12 so they’re more confident when they transition to higher education.
“It’s my passion to change a system that was not built for me or people like me, and to restructure it so that more students can succeed,” Rosas Hernandez said.
She acknowledges it will be hard work, likening it to her little brother’s frustration when the Lego house he built can’t be completed because something went wrong in the early stages. When he comes to Rosas Hernandez upset, she tells him to take a break and reassess.
“Sometimes when you’re looking at something for so long, you start to lose the bigger vision,” she said. “That’s what’s happened in education. Sometimes what we need is a different perspective, then come back and rebuild that Lego house — find out level by level what’s going wrong, replace the pieces, and make it stronger for the next generation.”
Rosas Hernandez hopes to see progress in higher education too. She has already contributed to big changes at WSU, taking part in the hiring panel that selected the first executive director of Hispanic-Serving Initiatives.
“Weber State is working hard to be there for our Hispanic and Latino students, as well as other communities,” Rosas Hernandez said. “I’m so excited to be part of that. When I see them walk at graduation, it’s so emotional for me because it’s a reminder that we can do anything.”
This year, Rosas Hernandez plans to start an internship with a marketing agency. She hopes her future will include helping others get into college — no matter their color or background.
“There are battles we have to fight, sometimes even in our own head, where we feel like we don’t belong,” she said. “Whether you’re a first-generation college student or first-generation immigrant, I would just say, you do belong and you are worthy of going to higher education.”