On to the Next Chapter

Savanna Duenas is in her last semester at Cal Lutheran. Duenas is from Los Angeles, California. She did dance for thirteen years before coming to college. She’s majoring in Exercise Science with an Emphasis in Health Professions in which she plans to pursue a career in physical therapy. Currently, she volunteers at a hospital so she wants to be a physical therapist and specialize in pediatrics. Savanna enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, dancing and hanging out with friends. And on campus, she is involved in the Latin American Student Organization.

Her Campus at Cal Lutheran: How did you decide on your major?

Savanna Duenas: I did dance for over 13 years of my life before coming to college. So I became familiar with physical therapists at competitions, events and practices.

HCCLU: What made you decide to come to CLU?

SD: At first I wanted to go to the East Coast; I had been accepted to a couple of universities out there that had a large student population and had a big social life aspect. I was convinced that I was going to make my own life over there. Once I went to go visit the schools I realized how home sick I was. Cal Lutheran was initially my last choice, but it ended up being my best choice. After I decided the East Coast was a no, I came to Admitted Students Day here in April and after I went on a tour, met past alumni, I knew this was the place for me. That made me want to come here. I figured it was the perfect distance; it wasn’t too far or too close to home. And I figured that a small campus would suit me best at the end of the day.

HCCLU: How do you feel knowing that this is your last semester?

SD: It’s honestly a bitter sweet moment. I know each and every one of us has worked hard to get to this point in our lives and now that we’re here and the moment is coming soon it is both exciting and nerve wrecking because after this we go into the real world. I’ve been in school for the past 16 years. I am leaving the setting of meeting with professors, seeing friends and all. Really, I’m just figuring it all out. We’ve become a close community and it’s hard and difficult to know that we’ll be leaving soon and vengering and continuing on with our own journeys and heading our separate ways.

HCCLU: What has been the highlight of your time at CLU?

SD: The students and faculty have definitely been the highlight of attending CLU. I have formed a lot of close relationships. We’ve built a community for the past four years which is really what I am the most sad and nervous about, leaving the community that I’ve grown so close to. We’ve all been there for each other through difficult times, some of the most difficult and stressful times of my life. The amount of support and effort that faculty have put to make sure that they’re colleagues succeed is so unmatched, it’s unreal.

HCCLU: What has been your biggest take away from the past four years?

SD: I remember starting and wanting to transfer and never giving this university a chance until sophomore year. I realized during a difficult time that everyone in the community, all of my professors, friends and roommates checked up on me. I have become more engrained in this community since then. I have learned a lot and been educated by others. It has opened my eyes to all the opportunities out there, what I want to pursue and do after college. My career and future have been established these past four years through this community. They put in their effort and support to help me. I could never thank them enough for all that they’ve done. I feel very at home here and I know that I’m cared for. I know that professors and faculty have watched me grow for the past four years, I know they’d do anything for their students to succeed, to make sure it’s guaranteed.

HCCLU: Who has inspired you the most in life?

SD: My mom. She was eighteen when she had me and my dad passed away when I was two so it has always been her. And even after she had me she pursued college. She went to a community college and then to Cal State Long Beach. She’s been there for me throughout my entire life. She has really set the foundation to who I am today. Everything I do: my schooling, education, work, extracurriculars, it’s all for her. When I walk down the stage at the end of spring semester, I know it’ll all be for her. She’s been independent since a young age; I witnessed her go to school and come pick me up from my grandma’s house. She worked in the morning and went to school at night. She’s always told me that whatever I do in life to make sure to attend college. I’m really excited to make her proud. That’s who I always think of, with all the choices I make. The consequences of my actions, I think of her.

HCCLU: What professor would you say has guided you and been an influence to you during your time at Cal Lutheran?

SD: Professor Hawkins, from the Exercise Science department. He’s always encouraged me to do my best and get myself out there and has reminded me that I have worked hard to be where I am. I tend to focus on the minor inconveniences of life sometimes and he’s reminded me that those are minor setbacks. He has helped me out with the physical therapy process and guided me on how I should approach the application process. He’s always available to help and definitely cares about his students and helps them get to where they want to be. Even if it’s just to listen, he’s always there. I know he genuinely cares. His continuous encouragement is amazing and he has always told me I had what it takes to go into pt, even when I doubted myself. Sophomore year I was debating whether or not pt was what I wanted to do, or if I even had it in me. I was doubting myself. He’s the one that reminded me of all I had done and encouraged and helped me gain that confidence back that I lost in the beginning of college. I definitely think I had a difficult time adjusting to college courses so that affected my confidence. Once I kind of figured out my own schedule, meeting in the library with study groups, meeting with DA’s, meeting with professors it all helped me to succeed. He was always there to listen to me to see what was going on, whether it was related to my major or not.

HCCLU: What advice do you have for other CLU students?

SD: Take advantage of the resources the school provides you with, such as meeting with professors, on campus events, internships, mentorships, research, and the work opportunities. Not many schools offer what CLU does, that’s what I have learned in my last four years here. Getting into the physical therapist position is because of CLU, clupostings helped me out so much. I wouldn’t have been able to gain the experience I have without them or my mentors. Cal Lu’s a place that allows you to make connections that are essential to your future. The relationships that you form with students and professors aren’t going to end when you graduate. I know alumni that come and check in with faculty and that’s important to me.

HCCLU: What do you plan to do after graduation/in the future?

SD: Currently, I am a physical therapy aid but I plan to continue getting experience in a physical therapy setting and apply to pt programs. I want to pursue enrollment in an accredited physical therapy program and afterwards I want to specialize in pediatrics. My main goal is to work at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.