Lifelong Imperial Valley resident Clarissa Terán wants to see her community grow — which, in her opinion, is something that can be accomplished through higher education.
According to Terán, an administrative assistant for Student Affairs and Division of Education at San Diego State University Imperial Valley, only 14 percent of Valley residents currently have a bachelor’s degree.
“We have so much talent here in Imperial County — it’s just kind of sad that a bachelor’s is kind of tied in to what talent is,” she said. “But if we can get more people to just even complete a bachelor’s, it would just make our community even better and even attract others to move here. I mean, we have two great prison systems here, and we have great public organizations. They’re recruiting from the outside when there are people here, and the only thing that’s limiting them is the degrees.”
Encouraging, as well as guiding, local residents to attend a college or university — either locally or out of county — is something Terán has done passionately since graduating from Calexico High School in 2012.
Her desire to help others developed during her own journey to achieve a tertiary-level education.
Before having a complete understanding of all the local options available, she planned to take two years of general education at Imperial Valley College and then transfer out of the county.
Fortunately for her during this time, she was introduced to the Imperial Valley University Partnership, which provides local students with full access to SDSU-IV and IVC and a clear path to a bachelor’s degree in four years.
“That’s what really opened my eyes into what higher education is here in the Valley,” Terán said.
She enrolled in IVUP in fall 2012 and, through the program, earned an Associate of Arts degree from IVC in June 2014, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SDSU-IV in May 2016.
During this time, Terán worked her way up to her current full-time position — first serving as a student assistant from fall 2012 to fall 2013, then as a college peer advisor in fall 2014.
Also in the fall 2014, she began working part-time for SDSU-IV’s Division of Student Affairs. After earning her bachelor’s in 2016, she made the transition from student employee to full-time employee.
At the time, the university added a Division of Education in order for Terán to become a full-time employee. She now recruits and mentors students in the IVUP program.
Outreach and recruitment duties have come naturally for Terán, as she has a sincere passion for showing Valley residents how to navigate through the local college and university systems that once were a mystery to her.
“There are a lot of people who don’t know what’s in their own backyard,” she said. “A lot of people didn’t know that we had SDSU here. Of course, I want everyone I speak to, to come here to SDSU because I had a positive experience, but it might not be for everybody. I just let students know that there are endless options — whether it be locally or they want to travel far.”
Meanwhile, Terán’s own personal journey in higher education has continued. She earned her master’s degree in public administration and participated in her graduation ceremony May 18.
“I really want to continue working in higher education here in Imperial Valley, wherever it may be.” Terán said. “I love SDSU. We’re doing a really good thing here right now. We’re bringing a lot of freshmen programs, and I’m happy to be a part of all the new things that will be coming to the Imperial Valley. I know I’m still young, but in the years that I’ve been here, so much has changed in a short amount of time. And I really think that higher education is going to pull us to get to where Imperial Valley should be.”