A degree 25 years in the making

By VICTORIA CISNEROS, Student Writer

Since returning to college after 25 years, Yvonne Damian (2019) has achieved more than she ever thought possible. This May, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutritional Sciences and become the first person in her family to earn a four-year degree.

Yvonne graduated from high school in 1990 and immediately enrolled at Reedley College. As a teen, her passions lied elsewhere, and she eventually left Reedley for a full time job. Since then, she has worked jobs that simply paid the bills, until she landed a temporary job in a hospital kitchen.

“I was working in the kitchen and we were creating individualized meals for patients there, and what I saw was that the food was all different for each individual patient. I became fascinated with why they were getting those meals and I started asking lots of questions, and that was the seed that kind of got planted.”

About four years ago, Yvonne returned to Reedley College to pursue an associate degree, passing classes such as anatomy, microbiology, physiology, and organic chemistry, all while working up to 35 hours a week.

“At that point, it was like, ‘I’m doing it. I’m passing these science classes.’ So then, when I graduated, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m going to Fresno State.’ This is happening.”

During her first semester at Fresno State, Yvonne enrolled in six classes and applied to the Dietetics Program. Through her hard work and dedication, she earned a place on the President’s List and a seat in the next cohort. She went from feeling like “this little fish in this big pond” to an active member of the Fresno State community.

“If you would have asked me if I would have been on the Board of the Student Nutrition Dietetics as the Events Coordinator, I would have said no way. As a media advertiser for the Fresno State Diabetes Coalition, no way. Volunteering with Health on Wheels that do health screenings right here on campus, no way.”

The family Yvonne has found, in either her organizations, cohort, or faculty, has been the driving force that kept her going. She has learned concepts that stretch far beyond the classroom, including what it means to find the best in yourself.

“It allowed me to see who I can be.”

Yvonne Damian (top left) and the Bulldogs in the Kitchen

“And it was here at Fresno State that I learned not only nutrition, but I learned how to be humble, I learned that the community needs it back and one day I’ll be in that position to give back.”

Yvonne wants to “go all the way” and eventually become a Registered Dietician. After graduation, she hopes to complete an internship and take the state certification exam.

Although she is excited to move on, Yvonne will never forget the memories and connections she has made at Fresno State.

“Leaving, I’m going to feel like a big part of me is missing. But I’m not really leaving Fresno State. I’m taking Fresno State with me.”