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Northeast graduate inspired by her education; plans to pursue more

Northeast graduate inspired by her education; plans to pursue more

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. – A first-generation student who graduated recently from Northeast Community College embraced college and everything it has to offer. In fact, Yatziri Loya Barraza left with two degrees and plans to pursue additional education. She wants to eventually open her own business as a certified public accountant.

Loya Barraza, of South Sioux City, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Blanca Barraza and Victor Alvidrez and grew up there until her family moved to Nebraska ten years ago. She has earned associate of arts and associate of science degrees at Northeast and will transfer to the University of South Dakota to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Her ambition to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting comes from her career aspirations and goals she has set for herself.

“I really enjoy working with numbers and I knew I wanted to base my career off of that,” Loya Barraza said. When asked where she finds motivation or inspiration to achieve what she has, she had one person in mind. “My mom is the biggest inspiration to me, because she left everything that she knew behind to come to the United States to give me a better life.”

Although she took classes on Northeast’s extended campus in South Sioux City, Loya Barraza made efforts to be a part of as many activities on the Norfolk campus as often as she could, even if it meant going out of her way to make it work. She was always willing to meet up for a TRIO program event and participated in ways that worked for her, playing a huge part in growing the TRIO community. 

TRIO is a federally funded program that assists income-eligible individuals, first-generation college students and those with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline to post-baccalaureate programs. It also focuses on career exploration, cultural and social enrichment, and self-awareness.
In the classroom, Loya Barraza thrived and excelled, with a cumulative GPA of 3.97, demonstrating that her academics are extremely important to her. She has balanced her social, work, and academic life at a high level, and she has found success in all of them. 
Based on her high grade point average, she was invited to join Northeast’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society Tau Chi chapter. Additionally, she was among six Northeast students named to the 2023 Nebraska PTK All-State Academic Team. 

Loya Barraza found a strong group of individuals who have supported her along the way. She cited three Northeast employees who made a positive impact on her - Lori McClaren, business instructor, and Matthew Sazama and Josh Becker, TRIO advisors.

“Yatziri is responsible, organized, articulate, exceedingly driven, and a personable young adult. She is always prepared and was ready for class,” McClaren said. “As a South Sioux City High School graduate, she was chosen by Great West Casualty Company to participate in their program, “Insure Your Future.” In exchange for receiving two years of paid tuition and fees, she received a two-year paid internship that will end this spring.” 

McClaren said as a student, Loya Barraza has been a servant leader and has continually put the team first before herself. She said she strives for high grades and balances work, grades, and home life well. 

“Grades play an important part and explain why Yatziri is in PTK. I am extremely impressed that she has taken advantage of all Northeast Community College has to offer including participating in the TRIO trips, being named to the All-Nebraska PTK Academic Team, meeting the governor, and taking advantage of the Insure Your Future program offered by Great West Casualty.” 

For her commitment to her education, Loya Barraza was named TRIO Student of the Month for April. Each month of each semester, a participating TRIO student has been selected for the award based upon their work in TRIO and in other activities on campus or in the community. Award winners receive a plaque from the TRIO Program and have their photo placed in the “TRIO Program Student of the Month” Achievement Recognition board. 

The board, located in the TRIO office, features the theme, True Leaders. It states, “We define true leaders as those who are first to strive and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan, and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader's commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.”

Sazama has enjoyed working with Loya Barraza. He said he had the opportunity to get to know her during her first semester when she went on a tubing trip to Colorado and served as his co-pilot in a van with eight other students. 

“Yatziri has such an honest and personable disposition; it made the weekend round trip a breeze. I knew I had a great student when she took the initiative to get to know the other students on the trip and encouraged everyone in a positive way to face their fears on the water,” Sazama said. “She proved to be one of my top students academically earning near perfect grades the entire time at Northeast and met with me regularly to resolve any issues that she faced. She always came prepared and made my job quite easy. I will miss her friendly smile and look forward to hearing of all her future successes.” 

Becker has been impressed with Loya Barraza’s work ethic during her time at Northeast.

“Yatziri has such a warm and endearing personality, and she is an extremely intelligent young woman,” Becker said. “She is one of the most driven, compassionate, and hard-working students that I have had the opportunity to work with. I have no doubt that she will achieve the goals she has set for herself.”