Student Success Story: Areli Avianeda


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Leadership Spotlight: Areli Avianeda

In this leadership spotlight, we would like to introduce Areli Avianeda. She is one of the most genuine, bright and kind students that you will ever meet! She is a senior at Genesis Academy High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Areli is a first-generation U.S. Citizen with high hopes of going to college and starting a successful career. Areli’s parents came to the United States in hopes of giving her more opportunities and a better future. Throughout her childhood, Areli has struggled with integrating into American society while keeping her Mexican Heritage, which is a big part of who she is. In her family, she has a younger sister, two older brothers, a mother, and father. They are a close-knit family that is very involved in each other’s lives.

Areli was introduced to the Valley Guardians Leadership Program by one of her counselors, who saw untapped potential to be a future leader. She was interviewed and accepted into the program because of her motivation and desire to become a leader. She was assigned a coach to mentor and guide her in reaching her “full potential”. In her eyes, this was a huge opportunity to utilize the knowledge of a trained professional with a higher level of education and coaching experience to help her improve. The program wasn’t going to be easy but she was up for the challenge and ready to overcome obstacles.

At the beginning of the program, Areli mentioned that she felt like she had so much potential but wasn’t able to apply it in her life. She struggled with staying focused and getting good grades in school. She was a very shy person, who felt more comfortable being with family than making friends, going to events and being social. All of this compounded to the fact that she didn’t feel prepared for life after high school. She didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career and if she would be able to survive on her own.

The main focus of her coaching meetings was to help her to develop confidence in herself and stability in her mental health by setting and achieving goals. The process of goal setting was slow at the beginning, but sped up as she learned her own capability.

The first aspect of her life that she wanted to focus on was the social aspect. Due to COVID-19, school was online and she would go weeks without seeing anyone except her family. Her circumstances made it difficult to socialize and make new friends. Due to her situation, she started to practice social skills with her family by spending more time with them and interacting with them in ways she hadn’t before. Eventually, she created different opportunities to hang out with friends, join virtual clubs, perform traditional Mexican dancing, attend events and meet neighbors in her community. She even had the opportunity to go on two overnight getaway retreats which included high adventure activities, leadership training, and team building exercises with students that she didn’t know! For a person who rarely went out, these were significant milestones for her in building confidence and her social ability. She made new friends, built stronger relationships, and found the courage to present at the closing ceremony of VG Leadership Program to parents and students. Her progress went beyond what is usually expected of students and she continued take advantage of every opportunity that she had.

Through this growth, she felt confident to find her first job. It took persistence, patience and motivation to get an interview for the job but was hired immediately when they got to know her. She has been working for the past six months and continues to gain business experience that will prepare her for the future. She has made friends with her co-workers and her supervisors are considering moving her up to a management position.

It was difficult at first to interact and adjust to the professional environment but Areli adapted, worked hard, and learned how to enjoy it. This job has also taught her lessons on budgeting, punctuality, customer service, and work ethic. She believed it to be a steppingstone to future career opportunities and an experience that will help to figure out what she wants to do. From this experience, she has learned a lot about herself. She was also one of the few students that took advantage of the professional network of the program. She met with different professionals to ask them about their career. It was a unique learning experience for her and helped her to gain more insight into her future career.

With the help of counselors, family, and friends, Areli is now looking at becoming a dental assistant and maybe even a dentist after that. She knows that it will take a lot of hard work but is confident that she can obtain her goals and dreams! When asked about the program and her own progress, she commented:

“I gained self-confidence and realized there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. I stopped listening to the negative thoughts that I would have about myself. I set goals each week, made an effort to achieve them. I started exercising and painting to relieve stress. I spent quality time with my parents and started opening up a bit more. I got my first job and made an effort to hang out with friends! I started doing homework and putting more effort into school. I became more accountable and improved my time management, confidence, leadership skills, and positivity. I know I keep saying confidence but it’s because I’m still pretty shocked at how much more confidence I have for myself now. I would have never thought that I can be as confident as I am right now but the biggest change that I have noticed is definitely my mental health”

Areli’s story is amazing and there is so much more to the story that we didn’t share! We didn’t get to talk about her painting, service to family, stress management, life skills, and much more. We are so proud of Areli and everything that she has accomplished. She has exceeded all expectations of the program and showed the quality of person that she is. There is no doubt that she has the potential to achieve her dreams. Her parents completely agree and could see a noticeable change in her motivation, and actions throughout the program. They appreciated the help of the program to unlock the true potential that they knew their daughter had. For them, there is nothing greater than to see their daughter confident in herself, and truly happy! Areli added some comments to the program:

“When I first joined the program, I didn’t expect my whole life to take a turn for the better. I learned so many things when I went to the three-day getaway. I met many amazing people and got to know each coach. This program helped me show the potential that I knew that I had in me”.

We can’t wait to see what her future holds and we will continue to support her through the VG Leadership Program!

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Kashiwagi is a business management consultant and co-founder of Leadership Society of Arizona. Dr. Kashiwagi is also a certified Best Value expert and program manager for KSM inc. He has traveled around the world to help large organizations save millions on project costs.