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SMCC Class of 2021 Co-Valedictorian Yesenia Escareño

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On her graduation cap, South Mountain Community College Co-Valedictorian Yesenia Escareño inscribed this simple message: “Para mis padres que llegaron sin nada, pero me dieron todo.”

In English, that translates to: For my parents, who arrived with nothing but gave me everything.

One of two Valedictorians for SMCC’s graduating Class of 2021, Escareño, who is receiving her Associate’s degree in Accounting this Spring. plans to honor her parents, who migrated from Mexico.

“My parents moved from Mexico to give us more opportunities,” said Escareño. “We took advantage of those opportunities.”

To Yesenia and her family, the news of her receiving one of the highest honors for her graduating class came as a big surprise, “and an honor for her and her parents.”

Before her time began at the college, Escareño didn’t have to look far after graduating Marcos de Niza High School; having lived in the South Phoenix community for most of her life, she chose to steps of her siblings, who had also attended SMCC.

An accounting major, Yesenia was part of DECA, a non-profit organization focused in supporting students interested in marketing, finance, management and other careers in entrepreneurship. Escareño was also in the Honors Program, which paid her two years at SMCC, and was part of the Phi Theta Kappa Chapter. Her passion for business, and her natural talent with numbers led her to accounting and to the SMCC DECA chapter, where she had the opportunity to compete and qualify for the international competition.

“It gave me real life experience in accounting,” Escareño said. “It showed me I chose the right career.”

Her leadership also shined as Vice-President of the DECA Chapter at SMCC.

“My mentor and professor, Brian Smith, saw my ease in accounting and played a big role in my growth,” Escareño said. The DECA chapter members and my professor helped create a small community that supported each other.”

 “I will be the first one in my family to go to a university,” Escareño said, sharing that her family is proud of her as a first-generation student, and a first generation Mexican-American.

“My mom always encouraged us to go to school,” she said. “I did, I put my best effort forward and it led me here.”

To Escareño, the COVID-19 pandemic was a big challenge to overcome, but having worked since she was sixteen at the City of Tempe youth enrichment program while attending college full-time, taught her the discipline to be successful.

After graduation, she plans to transfer to Arizona State University to major in Accounting where part of her tuition will be covered by the City of Tempe as part of her work and scholarships.

Yesenia plans to eventually earn her Master’s degree in accounting in order to take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination to become a U.S. Certified Public Accountant.