“Education is important because it opens the door to a lot of things,

and no-one can take it away from you”

Anai Pulido graduated high school from South Valley Academy in 2012. She earned her B.A. in Criminal Justice and Spanish with a Minor in Child Advocacy in 2016 from New Mexico State University, and completed her Masters of Public Administration from NMSU in the spring of 2018. Anai is the first in her family to pursue a college education.

Growing up as the youngest of six siblings, there were many things expected of Anai. Obtaining a college degree was not one of them.

During her early years of high school, Anai knew she wanted to attend college but wasn’t sure how. Her advisor suggested she apply to the New Mexico Simon Scholars Program (NMSSP) to access support in pursuing her dream of attending college. Anai was skeptical that she was “good enough” for such a selective program, but her advisor was confident that she was a very competitive applicant. Anai says she “couldn’t stop smiling” after she received her acceptance letter.

While she has always been a good student with a powerful drive to succeed, Anai shares that she has “never had things given to me and I always had to work for it”. Anai excelled academically in high school as a Simon Scholar, and after considering all of her college options (including the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Hawaii) decided that NMSU was the best fit for her. “NMSU offered me more financial aid, they had programs that interested me, and the culture of Southern New Mexico seemed pretty familiar and easy to adapt to.”

Anai faced many challenges common among first generation, underrepresented college students, including misconceptions among her peers about her Mexican American identity. At times, this made her feel like she didn’t fit in and maybe wasn’t cut out for college. In the moments of self-doubt Anai found motivation in her desire to make her parents proud and by the NMSSP staff that believed in her. Anai says “I couldn’t let them down…I couldn’t disappoint them”. She told herself she had “two options, success or failure; quitting wasn’t one of them”.

During her sophomore year, Anai chose to double major in Criminal Justice and Spanish. This was a turning point in her college journey. Already serving as the youngest student to gain a work-study position in the advising center, Anai became involved in a very competitive honor society and helped found a group dedicated to supporting Latin students at NMSU. Being active on campus “helped me overcome my shyness, develop good friendships and feel more at home in college.” She also gained valuable leadership skills and learned how to effectively work with people.

As her undergraduate program neared completion, Anai realized that she wanted to further her education. With the encouragement of her advisor, she applied and was admitted to the Masters in Public Administration program. “Public administration taught me skills that are necessary if I want to help the community. I learned how policies work and how much they affect people, and how to become an effective leader in government.” Anai is currently exploring employment opportunities that will allow her to apply her passion and skills “so I can give back to my community.”

In closing, Anai shares that her parents are very proud of her and that she is deeply appreciative for the support she had from her mentors and our program.  “The Simon Scholars program was supportive in every way. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without your support!” Anai’s advice to the younger generation of students is that “It’s hard to see yourself in the future, but invest in the future. Accept challenges that help you grow.”