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Chico State

Graduating Seniors Share Their Stories: Finding Support, Community, and Calling in BSS

Portrait of Guadalupe Carolina Vasquez, posing on the grounds of a preschool in a white jacket.
(Jason Halley / University Photography)

Your college years are a time of exceptional growth—academically, socially, and philosophically. Who you are on day one is often very different from the person who throws their cap in the air at commencement. As members of the class of 2024 wrap up their time as undergraduates, we’re asking them to share their story of transformation.   

Guadalupe Carolina Vazquez lived and went to high school in Paradise when the Camp Fire took place in 2018, and was among the almost 50,000 people displaced by it. Her journey at Chico State began two years later amid ongoing grief and unrest, compounded by trying circumstances of a different nature: a global pandemic.  

Through these painful times, Vazquez has tapped into a range of positive experiences and influences to create her own vision for the future—one in which she’s part of a support system for children facing traumatic life events. Now a senior in the Honors Program, she is part of a research team focused on understanding how to support teenagers during and after wildfires. 

“It’s really important for children to feel like they have someone that can be there for them,” said Vazquez. “I know personally how much having support has helped me grow.”

That support has come from a variety of sources: faculty in the College of Behavioral and Social Science, resources on campus like the Writing Center, and her parents. Vazquez is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in child development this spring, and is currently assessing multiple career and graduate schools paths that center on providing support and services to children and families.


In Her Own Words:

I chose Chico State because it’s close to home and I’m a first-generation student. This has helped me financially and given me some stability with the support of my parents. I started at Chico State during the pandemic. Going from Zoom to in-person classes during my second year, I knew that lectures would be a lot bigger than my 30-student classes in middle and high school. With one teacher, I thought maybe I wasn’t going to be connected because there would be over 40 students to talk to and grade and help with paperwork.  

My professors and instructors were all very welcoming, though. That really helped me feel like I could overcome this fear of fading into the background. I could go to them during office hours and communicate with them and talk through things. Faculty in the child development program are very welcoming and they want to know how you are doing in school and life, and they want to support you. 

I also really connected with Lindsey Nenadal (assistant professor in the Department of Childhood Development). She’s from Paradise and her family went through the Camp Fire; knowing someone could understand me and the burden I carry from that experience of losing my home made me feel seen and supported. I felt fortunate to start the honors program with her. Shelley Hart (professor in the Department of Childhood Development) has also been really supportive. 

Having experienced significant trauma and seeing others go through it too, I know how difficult it can be without the support of an adult—it can be hard for a child to fully develop. The Camp Fire affected me in college; your mind gets stuck on things because of trauma. Since I was fortunate to have so much support, I want to be someone for other children going through similar experiences. I want them to see me as someone they can trust, so they also can feel fully supported to make it through.