ALUMNI BOARD PROFILE:

Yvonne Armendariz overcame loss, unexpected life changes to get her education

Yvonne Armendariz graduation

Yvonne Armendariz earned her bachelor's degree in 2010 and master's degree in 2015 from
CSUB. Here she is with university President Horace Mitchell.

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

Yvonne Armendariz has an early life story that could have altered her future.

As a little girl she endured domestic violence at home. She went to live with a grandmother she adored, only to lose her to cancer a few years later.

Her mother wasn’t able to take care of her, so Armendariz went to live with her aunt, uncle and cousins.

Then at 18, when she was on the verge of going away to college at San Diego State, her life changed and she had to alter her plans.

But fortunately for her family and the students she helps succeed in their college careers, Armendariz was able to overcome those challenges.

“I just feel really calm and content at where I am,” Armendariz said from her office at Bakersfield College.

‘I CAN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE’

Armendariz, a dual CSUB alumna and new member of the Alumni Association board, is program manager for an initiative at Bakersfield College that helps students who are underprepared for higher education.

Many of those students are first-generation college-goers who need basic skills courses and an introduction to college-going culture. They receive services like tutoring, peer mentoring and exposure to co-curricular activities.

Armendariz works on the academic side, managing the budget and tracking the data that shows which interventions are working.

“She’s phenomenal,” said her boss, Maria Wright, director of Academic Support Services at BC. “She’s a systematic thinker. She brings the perspective of, ‘How do we provide services to a broad range of students in a meaningful way?’”

It’s the perspective of someone who overcame her own barriers to learning.

Armendariz was born in Delano to parents who divorced early. After her mother re-married, her home life, in Bakersfield, became unbearable.

“I don’t know what happened, but I do remember very clearly coming home on my last day of school in third grade in tears and picking up the phone and calling grandma and saying that I can’t live there anymore,” Armendariz said.

She moved to Delano to live with her grandparents and instantly felt happy and protected. But it was short-lived.

First her grandfather died after collapsing in the bathroom one night. Then about a year later, her grandmother, with whom she enjoyed traveling throughout the state visiting family, developed cancer.

She remembers tagging along as her grandma went around town closing her financial accounts in preparation for her death.

The night her grandmother died, Armendariz had suddenly felt the urge to give her a kiss. She did so, went outside to get some air, and before she got to the end of the driveway, was called back by family members.

“My grandma had just passed,” Armendariz recalled. “So my family really believes that she was waiting for me to say my goodbye to her. That’s how close we were.”

Initially Armendariz lived with her mother and brother, and because her father lived out of town, she went to live with her maternal aunt, uncle and two cousins in Delano. The arrangement was a godsend.

“They were very much on a schedule,” Armendariz remembered. “I ate dinner at 5, I went to bed at 8. I enjoyed it and I thrived.”

Not wanting to be a burden, she took on side jobs as a typist, babysitter, waitress and housecleaner.

Armendariz was a great kid and fit in well with the family, said her aunt, Sally Nachor.

“She learned our ways,” Nachor said. “She learned how we valued God in our lives, about chores, that everyone had chores to do.”

But a year after graduating from Delano High School, Armendariz gave birth to a baby girl. She modified her plans of attending San Diego State and enrolled in community college.

It was a blow to her ego.

“That spring semester was the most depressing and humbling (time),” Armendariz said. “I aced it, but I was in class with my fellow high school peers, people (to whom) I had said, ‘I’m not going to community college, I’m going to San Diego State.’”

A JUGGLING ACT

In the years that followed, Armendariz juggled a lot: Raising her daughter, Savannah, working full-time clerical jobs for local school districts, and taking college classes here and there. Sometimes she lived with Nachor, sometimes she lived on her own.

Armendariz doesn’t know how she managed it all, she just did. Nachor says her niece simply wanted a better life for herself and worked hard to get it.

“She’s one person you can look at and say, ‘She strived, she endured, to get where she is today.’”

Armendariz got married (her husband, Matthew, is a Navy veteran and fireman), and they had two boys, Quentin, 14, and Xavier, 13. Savannah, 21, recently enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

The family likes to travel, complete do-it-yourself projects at home and go hiking. Armendariz enjoys volunteering, has fostered dogs for Marley’s Mutts and for a long time was a successful Raiders ticket distributor.

For years, Armendariz put off her education because she wanted to give her family the necessary time and attention. Things changed when her children got a little older.

She transferred to CSUB in 2006 and found a work-school-family routine that clicked. She’d go to work in the morning, come home, do homework with her kids, then go to class.  When her husband was at work, her daughter would help her put the boys to bed and then she would start studying.

Armendariz graduated from CSUB with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2010 and a master’s degree in public administration in 2015, graduating with honors.

“I had mixed emotions,” she said of earning her undergraduate degree. “I was happy I reached my goal, but I was also disappointed with myself because it took me 14 years to do it. I wanted to set an example for my children and earn my degree.

“I was more happy and proud of my accomplishment when I received my master’s,” she continued, “because I started and finished within my two-year time frame.”

Now she’s thinking about pursuing her doctorate.

“I enjoy learning,” she said. “I believe we should always continue to learn and grow.”