Sun Devil finds college success after a few false starts

July 15, 2020

Cassandra Ortiz is a student at ASU majoring in applied biological sciences with a focus in natural resource ecology, and her path here was filled with personal and academic challenges. Her persistence and willingness to learn about the college experience and the resources available to her helped her find success academically. 

As a high school student, Ortiz, who is from Illinois, tried to navigate college applications and personal essays by herself, and she ended up only applying to one college. She was not accepted into that college, but she did not give up on pursuing postsecondary education.  

Ortiz enrolled in a community college in Chicago and began taking classes, but her schedule became overwhelming. Because she was working, commuting and taking college classes, Ortiz made the decision to transfer to a community college closer to home to eliminate the stress of commuting.  However, going to school so close to home made it hard for her to stay motivated, and she would often skip class. Ortiz then transferred to a four-year university but was soon academically dismissed. 

Ortiz was still determined to finish school and prove to herself that she was capable of academic success. She enrolled again in the community college in Chicago to finish earning her associate degree. Earning an associate degree was the first step for Ortiz, and she decided to continue her education at ASU.  

Cassandra Ortiz on the field at Sun Devil Stadium

Transitioning to a new school across the country proved to be challenging in the first semester, and Ortiz decided to take a new approach to her academics.  

“My first semester was very hard being away from home, and my grades showed it. Once I began to get involved, started to use my resources, and making friends I did better my second semester,” she said.

Ortiz immersed herself in programs available to students, and the TRIO program proved to be particularly invaluable. Not only did TRIO provide useful academic resources, but it also introduced Ortiz to a community of students like herself. Ortiz is also now the president of the Pi Delta Chapter of the Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc. Ortiz said she is grateful for the personal and academic growth she has seen within herself, and she is looking forward to the rest of her academic journey. 

“The advice I would give to students who may be struggling with college is to find the root of the issue and ask yourself: What are you having issues with? Courses? Social life? Mental health? Maybe all of the above. Finding the root of the issue or really analyzing why you may be facing challenges in college is important,” she said. “That way you can find resources.”

Getting a bachelor’s degree is the next step for Ortiz, and she plans to begin working in either marine biology or wildlife post graduation.

“My goal is to study this field in order to educate my community and the world, in order to provide change and help our planet earth and its organisms recover,” she said.