Grad Profile: Antelope Valley student aims to inspire others

Juan Serna at work in the Student Life Advancement Office at CSUB-Antelope Valley.

Juan Serna
BS Human Services

Juan Serna knew from early on that he wanted a career in which he could make a difference in young people’s lives. This month, he takes one step closer to his dream as he graduates from CSUB-Antelope Valley with a degree in Human Services.

“When I was in junior high, I saw a lot of my friends going into gangs and doing drugs and I felt like they were throwing their lives away. I knew they had more potential than that. So I want to inspire others to use their potential to grow and take advantage of resources they have at school,” Serna said.

Human Services is an interdisciplinary degree that includes psychology, sociology, criminal justice and child development.  The degree prepares students to become case workers for human services organizations. As part of his education, he interned at Change Lanes Youth Support Services in Palmdale, where he worked with at-risk youth who are on probation or in trouble at school.

This fall, Serna will begin a three-year Master’s of Social Work program at CSU Northridge with the hopes of working full-time with at-risk youth, mental health clients, veterans, and other disadvantaged communities.

Serna’s own inspiration for higher education comes from his parents. As migrant farmworkers, they worked the fields and orchards in Ventura County, barely making enough to sleep on floors of rented rooms and garages. Both his mom and dad encouraged their only child to go to college – an opportunity they themselves wish they’d had.

“Even though they didn’t go to school, they knew education was the best route to get out of poverty,” Serna said.

Serna started his college education at Antelope Valley College, then transferred to CSUB-AV (located next door) in fall 2010. During the second week of school, he became very sick and was hospitalized. His diagnosis of valley fever did not deter Serna from staying in school. As soon as he could, he returned to classes – IV still attached to his arm for daily antibiotic treatments – and powered through the next year of recovery.

“Juan is extremely dedicated to his education,” said psychology lecturer Allison Evans. “He took seven courses with me and consistently scored in the top 5 percent of each class. He beat valley fever that first year and never let it interfere with his education.”

Serna says the tight-knit CSUB-AV campus has been a wonderful support system for him, scholastically and personally. As a member of the Student Life Advancement Committee, he has actively participated in enriching the student experience at the campus by organizing guest speakers, events and activities. He was recently honored as the Outstanding Graduate Student for 2012 at CSUB-AV.

“The campus is actually very alive,” Serna said. “Here you see the same people almost every day and you develop a close relationship with them. It’s also easy to talk to the teachers, to get to know them. They have all been very supportive.”