As a first-generation student from St. Paul, Minn., Jasmine Juarez-Flores wasn’t sure what to expect attending Winona State University, but she soon found herself immersed in a community that supported and inspired her personal and professional growth. 

“Before [coming to Winona State], I had never had a teacher that was a person of color,” Juarez-Flores said. “At WSU, I’ve had two Latina professors. As a Latina student, I found that to be one of the most healing experiences.”

Juarez-Flores also became president of the Student Organization of Latinos at Winona State. The experience taught her about leadership and friendship, and she found serving as a leader for other Latinos on campus both inspiring and rejuvenating. 

“I want to set an example for [my members] and for all Latinos,” she said. “I want to show them that it is possible for us to have a voice.” 

During her time at Winona State, Juarez-Flores worked to define her career goals and develop the skills necessary to be successful. She declared a major in psychology and found an internship that prepared her to start working in the field. 

My proudest moment was when my [internship] supervisor allowed me to lead a session with one of his clients. I remember crying afterward because I felt like a real therapist. I thought, “Wow, I can really do this.” The client told me that she felt so comfortable with me and that I [was] a natural. These are words I will never forget, and I owe it all to WSU.

Jasmine Juarez-Flores

Commencement Speaker '23, Winona State University

In addition to the high points, Juarez-Flores also experienced low points during her time at WSU. She dealt with rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and even had to have hip surgery. Though these challenges presented obstacles on her path to a degree, she remained committed and has persevered. 

“WSU has made me stronger than I ever thought,” said Juarez-Flores. “I know I will [make it] because my dreams are far stronger than my pain.” 

After graduation, Juarez-Flores plans to attend graduate school in Los Angeles, California, and hopes to study the impact that culture has on mental health. 

Her goal is to bring awareness to the mental health issues experienced by people of color and to inspire personal and professional growth in the lives of those she works with. 

“Before WSU I was a very shy and scared person,” Juarez-Flores said. “However, I am no longer scared to have and use my voice. WSU has taught me how to be independent and confident. WSU truly taught me the meaning of ‘Warrior.’”