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Seen, Understood, and Valued

McKay School of Education

December 2022

Female student with flowers

Growing up in a Mexican-American family in Oregon, Janessa Castaneda knew the feeling of being different from many of those around her. But from a young age she felt comfortable and accepted in school, which led her to study elementary education and participate in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program at BYU.

“My goal is to make sure that every child feels seen, heard, understood, and valued,” Castaneda says. “I want to create a sense of community and make sure that each student thrives not only academically but also socially and emotionally.”

“My goal is to make sure that every child feels seen, heard, understood, and valued.”

Castaneda is not waiting until she graduates to create communities. She currently serves as a mentor for SOAR, a BYU college preparation and scholarship program that provides opportunities for multicultural students from various backgrounds. “There are so many differences but also so many things that connect us,” she says.

As a first-generation college student herself, Castaneda is also setting an example for her younger brother, who was recently accepted to BYU. “You’re not just helping one person,” she says to donors. “You’re helping generations."

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