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San Diego student brings hope to Mexican orphans

Arianna Zabriskie says her upbringing sheltered her from connecting directly with the world she is now advocating for. But she expresses only gratitude for what it has taught her.

It’s one thing to talk about being the “change we want to be” in the world, and quite another to actually be that change. Translating good intentions into action is challenging even for the most altruistic of us.

For 26-year-old Arianna Zabriskie, an M.A. Clinical Psychology (Marital and Family Therapy Specialization) student on The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s San Diego Campus, the change from intent into action happened last year on a visit to an orphanage south of Ensenada in Mexico. The trip was organized by a friend and she decided to go along to learn more about the orphanage.

“I got out of the van and a little boy came up to me, grabbed my hand and led me to this dirt area to dig with him,” she says. “He didn’t care if I couldn’t communicate, he just wanted someone to be there, listen to him, acknowledge him, and make him feel important. It was at that moment I realized these children need so much love.”

That moment was a turning point for Arianna—personally and perhaps even professionally. She and two other women have now partnered to launch a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the children of this orphanage and others like it in this part of Mexico. Their long-term plans are more ambitious: Coding classes for the older kids to prepare them for life after the orphanage, focusing primarily on the girls there.

“Many of the girls who transition out of the orphanages end up pregnant the first year out,” says Arianna, adding that it’s the lack of options that traps these girls into this cycle. “We want to advocate for people giving their time to these children more than anything because that is the greatest need, to be loved and love in return.”

Arianna, originally from Basalt, Colorado, says her upbringing sheltered her from connecting directly with the world she is now advocating for. But she expresses only gratitude for what it has taught her.

“I feel the most alive—these moments are the most precious moments I have experienced in my life. I have traveled all over the world and lived incredible experiences, but none compare to the joy I feel when helping these children,” she says.

Arianna has enlisted the support of the entire San Diego Campus, encouraging other students and faculty to support the orphanage. And she’s already planning her next visit to take another shipment of supplies.

“Arianna is a mover and a shaker in our field with a kind, generous soul,” says Dr. Randi Cowdery, Ph.D., Assistant Chair and Associate Professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the San Diego Campus. “She has always been interested in working internationally with children and families, particularly those in underserved communities. When she first spoke about her trips to the orphanage, she spoke from her heart about wanting to help the children in need.”

The support of the San Diego Campus’ students, faculty and administrators reinforces Arianna’s decision to pursue her education with The Chicago School.

“I was so impressed by the cultural awareness and emphasis on diversity. This is something so incredibly important in the world of psychology,” Arianna says.

And this experience has also reinforced her desire to become a psychologist. Arianna has decided to enroll in TCSPP’s Clinical Psychology doctoral program once she completes her M.A. degree.

“I believe the number one thing we need in our world is love and connection,” she says. “I am training to learn how to create space for love and connection in a diverse world. I aim to help people find compassion, explore peace and thrive in hope.”


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Victor Abalos

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