En Español. Ivonne Estrella Dominguez attended college to step out of her comfort zone. "If you had met me a few years ago, I wouldn't speak to people," she said. "I was really quiet and shy." Growing up with autism and a learning disability, Ivonne had to overcome many challenges. "There's a lack of support out there for those of us who are different," she said. Upon arrival at Phoenix College (PC), she chose to find her voice, speak up, and find opportunities to get involved on campus.
Two opportunities were the Social Justice and Rainbow Spectrum clubs. Michelle Cunneen, the staff advisor of both clubs, said, "Ivonne is one of the most proactive and passionate students I've ever worked with. She is not afraid to start something and get involved. She grew in many ways while at PC, from someone unsure about herself and how she fits in to connecting with people and networking. What a beautiful transformation." Ivonne noted Michelle was instrumental in helping her make connections with other students and became a second mom to her. "Michelle is easy to speak to if students are struggling and need someone to talk to. She's amazing."
Ivonne also became involved in PC United, Phoenix College student government, serving as the Vice President of Academics to ensure other students with disabilities received the support to succeed in their classes. "I've changed a lot," she said. "I've gone through some obstacles academically, but I just kept going and didn't give up. Going to college has helped me grow as a person and in my leadership. My passion is social justice [Ivonne is regularly out canvassing to register people to vote], but I also want to create solutions for people on the spectrum like me." A PC graduate in May 2023, Ivonne is attending ASU for a degree in Disability Studies.
Her strategy for success has been speaking up for herself and the accommodations she needs, which includes providing documentation about her medical conditions to Disability Resources. She also found support in PC's Tutoring Center. "I just needed a little extra help. They were great with me. They understood and gave me some options, which is also when the Phoenix Promise Program [a scholarship funded in collaboration with the City of Phoenix and the Maricopa Community College Foundation], became available." Ivonne received the scholarship and appreciated the resources that came with the award.
Ivonne identifies as Hispanic but was curious to learn more about her identity and ancestry. She took a Hispanic Heritage of the Southwest class in Chicana and Chicano Studies where she read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya and identified with the main character who positively impacts his community. The book's message of loving yourself and your identity resonated with Ivonne, as did learning about the Chicano movements. She even met Delores Huerta, the labor and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers movement with Cesar Chavez and came up with the slogan Si se puede (Spanish for "Yes, it's possible" or "Yes, we can") during Chavez's 25-day fast in Phoenix. The slogan has become the motto for the United Farm Workers of America.
For Ivonne, being a Chicana means feeling bold and powerful. "Whatever struggles I'm going through, I remember how my ancestors came to this country and changed things," she said. "How the movements they fought for have impacted us." She finds strength in that legacy, telling herself, "You can do this. You've got this. Si se puede."