Even though Matxalen Villalovos’ mother only spoke Spanish, she did whatever she could to guide her daughter through school.
“When we could get homework, it wouldn’t be translated, but she would find ways to – regardless of the language barrier – figure out what it said and help me,” Villalovos said. “She really did teach me how to find your own resources to go above and beyond.”
Villalovos and her family came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was in first grade, and settled in Englewood for six years. Later, she moved into Denver’s Globeville-Elyria Swansea neighborhood, a low-income, predominantly minority community where pursuing higher education is hardly a given.
Nevertheless, Villalovos managed to graduate from Bruce Randolph High School with straight As, and earn a scholarship to pursue a business degree at Colorado State University.
She’s set to graduate in May, and will have left a permanent mark on campus through her work as a mock interviewer with the Career Management Center in the College of Business.
She also created a guide for the best diversity, equity and inclusion practices for businesses, and hopes to one day work in an HR role where she can help create better work environments for all types of employees.
“That’s one thing I’m really passionate about, and I hope that I can create a more inclusive workforce, and help people from all identities and backgrounds be integrated into the workplace, and for companies to be able to retain them,” she said.
Villalovos called her family her biggest backbone for getting her college degree. Her older sister graduated from CU-Boulder and is a teacher, and her three youngest siblings are also expected to pursue higher education.
“They’re literally my only source of motivation, every time I persevere, and every time I do things,” Villalovos said.
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life or at CSU have required you to demonstrate courage?
It’d say it was leaving my home for the first time. Being so family-oriented, and going to college for four years, I had to develop courage and I had to develop new skills to live on my own, and also to go to a space where I’m maybe not as accepted and isn’t quite made for someone like me.
Being here, I feel like I’m pushing boundaries and am able to be a representation to all other people of color.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
It was seeing all of my hard work and effort pay off, and the benefits of dedication and commitment. If someone truly sets their mind to something, they can truly accomplish it.
I was able to get a college degree, have an amazing three years working with Lorie Humphrey in the Career Management Center, was able to become vice president of the Women in Business Association and president of my sorority, and mentor other people through lots of different things.
It just feels really good to see everything pay off and to let the fruits of my labor flourish.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
My advice to incoming students at CSU is to do everything and anything that they want to do without fear and without hesitation, because that will open up a lot of doors for them, and in the end, they’re not going to regret it.