Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Staff Spotlight: Leticia ‘Lety’ Serna

It’s not every day that you get to meet someone who’s spent their whole adult career in service to their community, but once you meet Leticia “Lety” Serna, it makes perfect sense. Her inviting smile, wonderful stories, and contagious laughter are everything that makes a college counselor the perfect person for students to go to for help, and she’s been doing it at Foothill for over 20 years.

Her journey to Foothill began in San Jose where she was one of eight siblings born to immigrant parents. Her father, who had immigrated from Mexico, had roughly a third to sixth-grade education. Lety’s mom came from Puerto Rico to reunite with her mom and start school.

Although Lety was born in the U.S., she moved back to Mexico at the age of three and would not return to the United States until she was eight. When she did return, she underwent the major challenge of learning English, which, at the time, was exceedingly difficult due to there not being an ESL program. 

Despite the challenges that she faced early on, Lety excelled in her studies throughout elementary, middle, and high school. She then graduated and moved on to Cal State Hayward, where she spent the first two years aiming for a bachelor’s degree in public health. At the time, it was the early seventies and the civil rights movement changes were still going strong. Already showing signs of her commitment to the community, she made sure to participate in any of the local activism.

After two years at Cal State Hayward, she transferred to San Jose State to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but due to personal reasons, she left with only a few units remaining in her degree. Even though this meant taking time off to care for herself, Lety still looks back on it in a positive light. 

“It’s not a race, you know. Life happens and if you need to take some time to take care of yourself then that’s what you need to do. That is the priority.”

During her break from college, Lety directed all of her attention and effort back to the community and began working in the public health sector. She started out by serving the Latino Community as a health educator at a number of community-based clinics. At one of the clinics she assisted in the hypertension department and at another she helped in the scheduling office. 

Later on, she focused entirely on a Planned Parenthood (PPH) clinic, which also happened to offer mobile clinic services to underprivileged community-members. 

The mobile clinic in particular was essential for lots of community members, especially those in the Half Moon Bay area, because many were migrants working in the agricultural industry. The majority of these migrants did not have ready access to PPH services, so Lety and her team played a crucial role in delivering and administering education and reproductive healthcare counseling.

“I wanted to make sure that people had someone who understood them and could communicate with them and help them through their process,” Lety added with a smile.

Migrant workers were not the only people she helped through their process though. From the mobile clinic, she was able to transition to a position with the Alameda County DA’s office’s Victim Witness Program; a role that proved simultaneously rewarding and emotionally taxing. Her job: working with victims of violent crime.

She was tasked with following victims and/or their families as they navigated the tumultuous aftermath of serious crimes ranging from homicide to abuse. During her five-year stint with the DA’s Office, she decided to head back to San Jose State. There, she finished her remaining undergraduate units and began her master’s degree in counseling and community mental health. 

She also continued to be incredibly active in the community, including working case management for a high-risk adolescent clinic in Oakland and contracting at the Alameda County Office of Family Planning. While at the Family Planning Office, she provided services to juvenile hall inmates, which proved to be, in her words, “very intense.”

Oftentimes the inmates were violent offenders, yet she still had to be in a room with them while providing counseling and aid. “It’s a little unnerving to have the doors lock behind you when you’re walking somewhere and knowing if someone doesn’t have the keys to open the door you can’t get out,” Lety recollected with a laugh.

She was soon hired as a part time counselor at Chabot College and part time counselor at Merritt College as well, and immediately began aiding students in their transition to bigger universities and the workplace. Thanks to her extensive experience with helping youth in the community, Lety was the perfect fit.

Eventually, in 2001, she found her way to Foothill and began as the Puente counselor, which she did for six years before transitioning to general counseling. Now it has been 23 years since she started here, and her impact has been astronomical. She’s helped an innumerable number of students accomplish their dreams of going to college and entering the workforce, including some students who have come back to work at Foothill. Additionally, she’s aided students in creating a Foothill magazine, and even taken underrepresented students to country-wide conferences.

When asked about those conferences, Lety couldn’t help but smile. “Many students, especially ones from underrepresented areas, had never been on a plane. They’d never traveled outside of their area, so having the opportunity to expose them to that was really wonderful.”

In general, Lety just loves working with students. Those “ah ha” moments are what has driven her to dedicate so much time, effort, and selfless service to all those who’ve come to her for help. Now that she is retiring, she wants to take a pause and go back to the basics. Getting healthy, making use of her yoga teaching certificate, and an Italian castle getaway are all on the docket, along with spending quality time with family and friends. 

It is obvious that Lety has left a lasting impact on each and every person she interacts with, as well as her community as a whole. Having these types of role models and difference-makers on campus is what makes Foothill such a special place. Make sure to drop by the counseling office before the end of the quarter to wish her a happy retirement!

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Greg Tobias
Greg Tobias, Campus Life Editor
Greg Tobias is a first year student majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics and is hoping to transfer to a CSU or a UC. Although his focus lies in the neurobiological, psychological, and anatomical processes behind alimentation, he loves to write and explore nature on the side. To him, writing is critical for self expression and understanding the world around us. If you catch him out in the wild, he’s probably reading a thick book to make it seem like he’s smarter than he is.

Comments (0)

All The Script Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *