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Ariadna Ochoa discovers her second home at MSU Denver

Ariadna OchoaHow does Ariadna Ochoa juggle learning Japanese, leading in the Supplemental Instruction program, and being a research assistant? The answer: Support from family and the resources at MSU Denver.

Ochoa immigrated to America with her mother and younger sister from Coahuila, Mexico, after witnessing violence in the streets in front of her house. That violence kept the intellectually motivated Ochoa out of school for two years before her family was able to secure the documentation to immigrate to America. Once settled in Denver she was able to return to her goal of going to college.

“Education is very important in my family,” Ochoa, the MSU Denver Modern Languages major, said. “My mother always says that education is the only thing you have that you can take with you anywhere.”

Intellectual curiosity and education runs in Ochoa’s family. Her maternal grandfather pursued three degrees—medical, law and accounting—and was a practicing accountant in Mexico. He was also the president of Mexico’s National Association of Accountants. Her mother went to college and encouraged her daughters to do the same.

“My mom instilled a love for school in both my sister and I,” she said. Now Ochoa is concentrating in Chicana/o Studies and Spanish, and looks toward graduate school with the goal of becoming an educator herself.

She also has a self-described obsession with Japan, the language and the culture, that goes back to her childhood reading the cherished encyclopedias her mother made sure they had at home for research. She’s taken four classes in Japanese and last summer had the opportunity to visit Japan with a friend.

“I learned English by taking Japanese language classes with one of my favorite professors, Kayoko Moore,” she said with a laugh. “She helped me learn Japanese when I couldn’t speak English very well, and in turn, she helped me with my English at the same time.”

This shy student with English as a Second Language never thought she would become a Supplemental Instruction Head Coach when she started at MSU Denver. However, when listening to her speak passionately about MSU Denver, it’s easy to understand how she would become a leader on campus.

“Christal Ruelas was my coach in SI and she helped me with more than just language skills,” she said. “She encouraged me to apply to the SI program as a coach because she saw my potential to help other students like me.”

She enjoys mentoring other students and watching them blossom as they gain more confidence. Ochoa believes that she’s gotten more from her experience than she gives. “We are constantly learning new tools and skills,” she said. “I’ve developed more self confidence and public speaking abilities that are helping me succeed in my classes and probably future career.”

After her first year at MSU Denver, Ochoa discovered the Modern Languages Major with a concentration in Spanish. She is also pursuing a second major in Chicana/o Studies with a concentration in social practice. And in her “spare time,” she is working toward her translation certification.

In addition to her studies, she’s a research assistant in the Chicano/a Studies department. One day her name may be included in the author notes of an encyclopedia. “I’m working for Dr. Nieto researching materials, articles and providing student feedback for an encyclopedia,” Ochoa said. “Dr. Nieto has been one of my biggest supporters; she really cares about my success.”

When asked what she does to recharge, the answer is easy: spend time with family. “My mom has fibromyalgia and I’m her primary caretaker,” she said. “I love spending time with her, watching her have adventures, and taking her places.”

Ochoa’s mother and younger sister are each other’s best friends and cheerleaders. Her sister Tanairi is also studying at MSU Denver as a Human Services major. “I’m happy here,” she said. “MSU Denver is my second home.”


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