2019 Outstanding Human Development and Family Studies Grad will always be a CSU Ram

When Joanna Luna came to Colorado State University for the first time, she had what she refers to as the “butterfly moment.”

The human development and family studies and social work major had always been very close to her family. They moved from San Jose, California, to Aurora, Colorado, when she was just four years old, and Luna never considered attending a university far from home.

In fact, as a first generation student, it was a big deal for her to consider university at all.

A girl smiles against a brick backdrop. She is wearing medals and a sash

When Luna first arrived on CSU’s campus, she realized this was going to be a transformational place for her. “I knew this was going to be home for the next four years,” she said. “When my family and I came to visit CSU, I had the butterfly moment. The community here is so welcoming and there are many resources for first generation students.”

As the first person in her family to attend college, Luna had to handle each new challenge on her own. “Being the first meant having no knowledge of FASFA, resources, or how to apply for scholarships,” she said.

“Key Communities; my HDFS adviser, Amy Schuster; the Academic Advancement Center (TRIO); El Centro and Adult Learner and Veteran Services have been my greatest supports. I have grown due to them and have accomplished the impossible.”

Serving her community

Since that first day, Luna has excelled in her classes and within her community. With guidance from faculty mentors, she has been able to take full advantage of the resources available to her.

For her first two years of school, Luna participated in Key Communities ‑- a highly diverse first and second year learning community program designed to assist students with their transition to and through the University. She became a key mentor for incoming students in her third year.

She volunteered with Rams Kidz Village, which provides free daycare to parents enrolled at CSU and quickly became the program manager.

Luna also assisted in conducting research for the Health, Emotion, and Aging Research Team for one year; mentored students in the Triunfo Mentoring Program, a peer mentoring program for underprivileged Latino elementary students; participated in two Alternative Spring Break trips with the SLiCE Office; and attended the Pinnacle Conference in Orlando, an association for non-traditional students in higher education.

Luna was also recognized at the 28th Annual Latina History Day Conference in California.

What’s next?

As Luna prepares to graduate, she says she will miss the resources here and her HDFS adviser the most.

Her professional goal is to become a high school social worker supporting adolescents dealing with loss. Her goal was influenced by her own experiences during her high school years when she lost her grandparents to a car accident.

But for the near future, Luna won’t be going very far, as she plans to attend graduate school at CSU in the Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program.

“It was a tough decision to make,” she said. “I got accepted to University of Denver, New York University, and Columbia University. But CSU is my home and I will always be a Ram!”

The School of Social Work and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies are both a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.