Audrey Chavarria Calderon is at UW Tacoma because a family friend decided to move. Chavarria Calderon and his family moved from Mexico City, Mexico to Montgomery, Alabama when Audrey was 12. The family stayed in Alabama for a few years but didn’t feel comfortable in the state due to anti-immigrant laws and rhetoric.
Chavarria Calderon’s uncle had a friend who moved from Las Vegas to Washington State for work. Through her work connections, she learned of a program called the Latino Educational Achievement Project [LEAP]. That friend went to Mexico for vacation and ended up telling Audrey’s extended family about the program, who, in turn, told his parents.
Now 22, Chavarria Calderon is set to graduate from UW Tacoma with a degree in computer science and systems. He credits his success to his parents for making the move and to LEAP for helping him navigate the U.S. education system. The organization, in partnership with late Chancellor Debra Friedman, helped Chavarria Calderon get started with a scholarship for his first two quarters at UW Tacoma.
Chavarria Calderon got to know his adopted home during a summer art class. The professor provided students with Walk Tacoma maps and set them out to explore. “I got a good perspective of what Tacoma looks like,” he said. “I got to know and love the city.”
One of Chavarria Calderon’s favorite parts of campus and the city is the diversity. “I like diversity a lot because when you want to be different and other people in a place are also different then no one is going to single you out because everyone is already so different that it’s just normal,” he said.
Of course, Chavarria Calderon is not just at UW Tacoma because of a family friend. Change brought him here but he made the most of his opportunity. His next opportunity is a position at Liberty Mutual Insurance which starts in July.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org