As a full-time working mother and wife, campus location was a major factor in Helanda Crespin’s decision to return to school. As a first-generation college and university graduate coming from a long line of hard-working domestic laborers, Helanda was a trail blazer. She enrolled as a part-time student to acclimate into the academic structure. Though education had always been a dream, her first priority was to her young children.
Two individuals helped Helanda acculturate into the college environment. Dr. David Rubi’s enthusiastic personality and thorough knowledge of Mexican culture encouraged her interests. One thing that she appreciated about Dr. Rubi is that he understood the unspoken plight of racism and colorism. “This acknowledgment did not soften his teaching; it strengthened student dedication and propelled us toward success,” Helanda said “Dr. Rubi taught me and others how to overcome the fear of learning a new language.”
Helanda’s extracurricular activities were influenced by PVCC security guard Leroy Hunter. He wanted to institute a Black Student Union governing group—she wasn’t interested. Rather than student government, Helanda was focused on studies only, as her time was extremely limited. However, it is because of Mr. Hunter’s persistent requests that Helanda became PVCC’S first substantiated Black Student Union President. He was also the reason she became involved in campus student government.
Involvement in the Black Student Union was an unexpected highlight of her time at PVCC. Helanda’s ideas about culture, race relations and human connection were expanded and propelled her to study Race Relations, Sociology and Women’s Studies at the university level. Helanda advises current and future students to choose courses that increase critical thinking skills. Also, “ask for help. No one is solely successful; this idea is a myth.” Her definition of intelligence is “For every piece of knowledge gained, hard work and help is the equivalent.”
One, among many positive experiences and interactions, Helanda had at PVCC is faculty and staff commitment to all students. “I did not at any time feel overlooked or discouraged about completing my education.” Helanda shared, “My most memorable experience was being told by Dr. Rubi and the Mr. Hunter that I mattered; it was okay to be me. I was told to believe that I could continue beyond an Associate’s degree.”
Paradise Valley Community College was a gateway of continuing education for Helanda. “As a small child, I envisioned going to college after high school,” Helanda said. “But life has its way of beating a straight life plan with a crooked stick. In other words, there were detours that I overcame that have indeed helped me become the person I am today.”
Helanda speaks highly of the commitment to inclusion and open dialogue at PVCC. “Regardless of socio economics, culture, race, and orientation, my experience was that each student mattered,” she said. “Compassion, thoughtfulness and effective student interaction was the striving focus.”