ASU grad looks forward to a career in criminal justice


May 19, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

For Anahi Parra, education is a path to a job that doesn’t feel like a job. Anahi Parra ASU grad Anahi Parra Download Full Image

Parra graduated last week with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in social welfare from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Parra aspires to one day work as an FBI agent, Border Patrol officer or a probation officer. 

She got a headstart on her career experience working as an intern for the Maricopa County Adult Probation department in the Presentence Investigation Unit.

“I was taking DNA samples. Anyone who’s convicted of a felony, they have to submit to a DNA test. So that’s what I was doing. It was pretty fun,” Parra said.

Parra made the most of her ASU experience. She enjoyed attending career fairs, worked in the Education at Work program at ASU and even studied abroad in Costa Rica for a summer semester. 

A Phoenix native, Parra has always wanted to give back to her community and be out in the field making an impact. 

With her undergraduate years at ASU now complete, Parra reflected on how her journey began and where she plans to go next.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I feel like ever since I was in high school I knew I wanted to help out my community and give back, because in high school I would volunteer a lot with St. Mary’s Food Bank or St. Vincent de Paul. I also knew deep down that I didn’t want to become a social worker because that's not what I was interested in. 

So throughout high school, that’s what really motivated me to figure out that I wanted to be a criminal justice major and also because I want to be out in the field doing something. I don’t want to be in an office doing case management or anything like that. I want something exciting and fun and basically feel and know that I’m working but it doesn't feel like I'm working because I love my job so much.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I feel like from a personal standpoint, ASU has taught me how to save money. My freshman year I was buying lunch on campus every single day and you know, keep in mind, I didn’t live on campus, so I didn’t have a meal plan. I didn’t have a car, so I was spending money on transportation. Then toward my sophomore year I started to meal prep.

I also studied abroad last summer in Costa Rica. When that happened I had to save money because (even though) I had scholarships for the trip to be paid for, I still needed to save for spending money or emergency money. So, ASU really taught me that I should not only rely on financial aid to pay for everything; it was my responsibility to save money.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Well, initially when I graduated high school, I didn’t even think about going to ASU. I just thought about going to community college and then transferring to ASU. I mainly thought that I wasn’t even going to get financial aid from ASU because my grades were OK, but not straight A’s. 

Also, I was scared to start off at a big university. But my mentor, she's the one who encouraged me to apply. She was like, "just do it, you never know if you'll get a scholarship.” So, I did, and I got a grant and here I am.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: One professor right off the bat is Professor Eric Johnson. He's my internship coordinator, and I had him in some of my previous CRJ classes. He is always pushing us to do our best no matter what. 

Also (academic success coordinator) Shonda Hertle. I keep in close contact with her. I’m always asking her just random questions and she’s never denying me or telling me to go to someone else. She’s always there for me and she’s always providing a lot of resources.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would say work hard and go to any ASU event, even if you go by yourself because more than likely someone else will be there by themselves, too. 

Work hard. Especially if you’re first-generation, you need to bust your butt to do everything you can to make your parents proud or to make yourself proud. That’s mainly why I did it.

And especially because no one wants to be up at one o’clock in the morning doing projects. That’s one thing that I’m glad I don’t do. I don’t do all-nighters to finish my homework. I am mainly on top of everything. So, I feel like if the students start off with that their freshman year, it’ll continue on as a habit so they’re not all stressed out, adding more stress on top of what they’re already feeling.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Well throughout my four years I traveled back and forth to the Tempe campus and the Downtown Phoenix location. I would say for the Tempe campus, I really enjoy just staying in the library and just chillin’. Even if it wasn’t for homework, I can go in there and take a nap and no one will tell me anything or I can go in there and eat food. 

Then in the Downtown Phoenix campus, I really enjoyed staying in the Student Center. I liked all the nice furniture that they have and they always have events there. I can always just hang out with my friends and not even do homework, just chill until the next class.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Well, I had a trip planned but it was canceled because of the coronavirus. I had a service learning trip to Spain, but like I said, it was canceled. I think as of right now, I do want to try to get a higher position, where I am currently working, in the meantime while I apply to other jobs and wait to hear back from them. So I’m really striving to get to a higher position so I can work full-time with them and then just apply everywhere else. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Extreme poverty in Third World countries and education. I really like and am fascinated with the service agencies that go out to rural countries and build houses and build schools and then teach all those kids. I feel like more funding should be provided to them just across the United States and across the world, anywhere in general. I feel like that’s super, super important. Also, a little more funding with providing more supplies to young girls like, giving them more feminine hygiene products.

Written by Carmen De Alba Cardenas, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-4255

Fulbright scholar used her narrative to be an ally to the undocumented community


May 19, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Berenice Pelayo has always been passionate about immigration policies and the undocumented community.  Berenice Pelayo in front of the WP Carey Business School in her cap and gown Berenice Pelayo Download Full Image

Growing up in a household with mixed immigration status allowed her to understand the hardship that immigrant families can experience. The 23-year-old Arizona native graduated last week with a degree in business law from the W. P. Carey School of Business and Barrett, The Honors College

During her time at Arizona State University, Pelayo was a student specialist for DREAMzone, an on-campus resource for the ASU community in support of undocumented, DACA students and students with families of mixed immigration status. Here she was able to help students with scholarships, DACA renewal forms and any questions regarding the transition to ASU. 

“I just want to be an ally, knowing that I am privileged to have been born here and that not all people have that same advantage. Undocumented students face many challenges related to their immigration status inside and outside of the classroom, which makes attaining a higher education increasingly difficult. That’s why I wanted to work with DREAMzone. I have met so many resilient and inspiring fellow students through my job. ,” Pelayo said. 

Being a transfer student from Central Arizona College did not stop her from getting the full Sun Devil experience. Pelayo was a Devils’ Advocate, giving school tours. She was also the president of the Global Council of Diplomats, which focused on bridging the gap between domestic and international students. 

Her final achievement as a Sun Devil was earning a Fulbright scholarship to Mexico City, where she is set to depart in January. 

“Walking through the Barrett hallways, you see all the photos of the students who have gone to different places through different scholarships. I thought that it would be so cool to be on that wall. So it’s kind of full circle now. I’m definitely so excited and so grateful that I got it,” Pelayo said. 

Pelayo will spend nine months abroad through the Fulbright Garcia-Robles Binational Business Internship. 

“I will be working for a Mexican or multinational company. The purpose is to gain business skills with a goal of creating mutual understanding between the private sectors of Mexico and the United States,” she said. 

She will also take business courses at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and will facilitate financial literacy classes for teens in public libraries or community centers. 

After graduation, Pelayo will start her new endeavor in the finance industry. As she graduated, she reflected on her time as a Sun Devil. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My “aha” moment happened the semester going into my senior year. 

I changed my major so many times because I have so many interests. It was hard to choose! However, I have always been interested in the intersection between the law and business, therefore business law was a perfect fit.

I’m part of Program Excellence. Program Excellence is a Barrett program for students who are interested in pursuing a career in law or they’re just interested in learning more about the law, and it’s in conjunction with Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Downtown Phoenix. 

So I’ve been able to take a law class with law students there. That’s been a really cool opportunity, one of my favorites through Barrett. The whole point of that was to let students see what it would be like to be in a law school. Although I am not planning on attending law school in the near future it has been an amazing opportunity to gain exposure to the environment and teaching practices of the Law College.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: There are so many different types of students at ASU from around the world and different parts of the United States, and we’re all so diverse. We bring so many different qualities to ASU. But what’s interesting is that we’re all brought together in this huge community because we’re all pursuing an education and trying to better ourselves in some way. 

It is great to see how the ASU community comes together. Overall, the giving spirit of the ASU community is inspiring and has shown me that true success is when you do good and use it to help others to do even better.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I’ve always wanted to go to ASU. It’s never even been a doubt that I wanted to go anywhere else. My mom went to ASU, and I’ve always thought ASU is the greatest university. I just always wanted to go.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Anita Verdugo Tarango has taught me the importance of mentoring younger people. Just gaining experience that you can use to help other people. She's been a mentor, which is awesome because you know, she's successful in her career. She’s had a lot of life experience and then she also uses her position to help others. So that's inspiring to see. That’s something I would like to do once I have more of an established career to be able to help others find their way as well. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Try new things. Just apply for things. With the Fulbright program, even though it’s something that really got my attention, I wasn’t sure if I should even apply. And there’s always that little bit of self-doubt. 

Like, should I even bother applying? Should I put that effort in or will I even get it if I do apply? But I think what is most important is just if it’s calling your name, just apply for it. Don’t tell yourself no. Just do it. And then if it happens, it happens and you never know where that will take you. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot has to be the Leadership Academy for business students. It’s great because they have free printing and computers, but free printing is a huge plus and it’s just a great space to get stuff done and also meet up with other students there. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In June I am going to be starting my first full-time position working for a retail banking company. I’ll be starting in the finance industry, which I’m really excited to learn more about. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: To fund worldwide education so that every kid has an education. If a child is given the opportunity to learn and that environment to thrive, then subsequently the other problems that we face in the world would also be solved or diminished. Because that generation of educated kids around the world will then solve other problems like poverty and hunger. It’d be a trickle effect.

Written by Carmen De Alba Cardenas, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-4255