“My education really allowed me to grow as a person, to push myself outside of my comfort zone and overcome challenges. I really surprised myself with what I’ve been able to achieve.”
Jisselle Romero started taking classes at her local community college just after her junior year in high school. She was looking for inspiration to push her through graduation and beyond, and she found that inspiration at Arizona Western College and UArizona Yuma.
"Those first community college classes are what drove me to get into my 'A game'," she recalled. "Before that, I didn't have a lot of academic confidence. Those classes showed me what I was capable of."
From the beginning, Romero knew she wanted to attend the University of Arizona's Yuma campus. She originally expected to follow in her mother's footsteps by studying nursing, but when UArizona Yuma added a Nutritional Sciences degree, she changed her mind.
"I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, but I wasn't one hundred percent sure I wanted to be a nurse," she said. "When I found out nutrition was an option, it stuck out to me, because it sounded like something fun to learn. Once I was in the program, I learned what registered dietitians do, and how many options there are, and I was hooked."
One of Romero's favorite elements of the program was its emphasis on community-based experiential learning. "A lot of the courses encouraged us to go out and work with local organizations," she said. "I volunteered at the food bank and at three different elementary school cafeterias, and I got to shadow a registered dietitian at a local pediatric clinic. It's nice because you're learning, but you're also giving back to your hometown."
The cafeteria experiences were particularly meaningful to Romero. "One of the cafeterias was actually my old elementary school, which was weird for me, but also really cool," she explained. "So, yes, I learned about the food service environment, the food safety protocols, the logistics. But it also gave me a chance to reflect on myself, to see how far I've come."
As she reflected on her college career, Romero said that her favorite courses were the ones that gave her the chance to surprise herself. "In my nutrition counseling class, for example, we had these assignments where we had to have a pretend counseling with a client, and I was really dreading them. I'm a very quiet person, and I wasn't looking forward to having to steer a conversation like that. But it ended up really helping me put myself out there and showed me some strengths I didn't think that I had."
Romero's studies won't stop after graduation. "Right now, I'm studying to earn my Dietetics Technician credential," she said. "Then I hope to gain some work experience, and then apply for the U of A's Professional Science Master's in Applied Nutrition for Dietetics program."