HES Outstanding Graduate Maya Alvarez builds community of support among her indigenous community, her sisterhood and the greater Denver area

Maya Alvarez standing in front of a brick wall

The original dream of college had outstanding graduate Maya Alvarez looking out-of-state for colleges, but a sense of home kept her right here in her home state and had her packing her bags for Colorado State University. Coming onto campus, she immediately had a new sense of home, making friends and feeling like she had a place on campus. When COVID-19 impacted her family and her relationships, she persevered, making her community a welcoming and warm place through her volunteer work and giving back to others.

Maya with her sisters and friends as they celebrate at an event
Maya with her sisters and friends as they celebrate at an event

“Maya is a first-generation student of indigenous heritage that has had to work through school to support her family,” said Kimberly Burke, director of Adult Fitness and HES instructor. “She has had some family tragedies during her time in school, with loss and sick family members. Through it all, she is trying to further her education and bring that back to her reservation to improve the lives of others.”

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is happy to recognize Alvarez as one of our Outstanding Graduates for Fall 2022. We asked her about her journey toward graduation, and the challenges and triumphs she faced along the way.

1.     Where are you from and what brought you to CSU?

I am from Rocky Ford, Colorado. Originally, I had committed to University of Oregon but when I did a tour at CSU, I felt a sense of community and made great friendships just within the group I was touring with. I also loved the SDPS offices, specifically APACC and NACC because I felt welcomed from the moment I came in and continuously supported their students that were already there.

2.     What obstacles have you overcome to get to graduation?

COVID-19 was a rough time for the numerous reasons that many during this time went through, I had lost multiple people in this time and my social group had made a huge change in dynamics which shifted if I wanted to stay at CSU and if I had made the right choice. Luckily, I felt a sense and strong pull towards staying here like I was meant to be here and I refused to give up so easily when I was so close to the end. Being a first generation indigenous woman made me feel like I was so alone at times because as much as people say, “I understand” they really cannot understand what it is like to be a first gen indigenous woman attending a predominantly white institution.

Although this huge change and shift of loss happened, it felt like a new chapter of myself was being opened. My sorority was also a huge support system and I know a lot of people have stereotypes regarding sororities, but my sorority sisters specifically Phi Line, my big, Tiff, Line Mom and Dad made me want to stay and helped me heal from all the bad and helped me turn that pain into something beautiful.

3.     How have your academic experiences here and your professors, mentors, and advisers helped you overcome these obstacles and be successful in your major?

Well I want to give a huge shoutout to my advisor Tami Boday for being a huge support through my success, learning moments, and while I was pushing through strenuous times. HES 455 group, “quad squad” really made my last on-campus semester the best. My last semester at CSU was probably the best semester I had because my sorority sisters, my capstone group, and I just felt an immense amount of love continuously being shown to me through my successes and rough moments.

Maya with her sisters and friends as they celebrate at her graduation
Maya with her sisters and friends as they celebrate at her graduation

4.     What activities have you been most involved in?

I was a volunteer for WGAC Victim Assistance Hotline, as well as a server at the best on-campus restaurant Y’es Poke Station. I am a sister of Alpha Phi Gamma National Sorority, Inc. (Theta Chapter) and a mentor for the Native American Cultural Center. I am a leader for Metro-Indigenous Women’s Support Group, as well as an intern at Inward Fitness.

5.     What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of during your time at CSU?

I think my biggest accomplishments were being able to be a part of so many greater goods. I continuously met so many amazing people that made me a better version of myself from being in a sorority to helping facilitate amazing Native American programs to create a community for incoming Native students.

6.     What will you miss most about CSU?

Maya and her friend hug at an event
Maya and her friend hug at an event.

I will miss my sisters so much. Seeing their beautiful faces every Monday at chapter was the biggest highlight. I will also miss my Mugs @ the Oval. The Pi Chai is the BEST combo with an amazing poke bowl next door.

7.     What are your plans after graduating?

I am currently in Denver right now interning for Inward Fitness. I am hoping to continue my program, “Legendary Fitness” within Denver communities. Legendary Fitness is a strength training program for young girls that helps create a healthy relationship between young girls and their bodies by showing them the strength and power they hold within themselves. I also have received my certified personal trainer CPT so that I am able to continue to create healthy lives and help people on their fitness journey.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences