Ennoby Arriaga knew she wanted to help others, though she never imagined enlisting in the military.
“With joining the military, I wasn't thinking of present me, I was thinking of my future self and family,” she said.
“I never thought I would join the military, I wanted to do my own thing, but it's been good for me and given me a new perspective on life.”
The 19 year old graduated from Sahuarita High School in 2018, and is active in the Army National Guard. Along with her work with the Guard she is taking 22 credits online at Arizona State University.
She had originally gone to ASU for biomedical engineering, with the intent of growing new organs for those who need transplants. As she went through the program, she learned her job prospects after college would be in manufacturing rather than creating new medicines or treatment techniques.
The Guard then introduced her to travel and put her in the heart of COVID-19’s impacts, and she switched to the global health program.
“Global health is basically more trans-disciplinary and covers a bunch of areas in how to serve and encompass all the world,” she said. “In general, it's about being able to understand modern, contemporary health challenges and, especially with what’s going on in the world right now, I want to focus on what I can do to help the rest of the world.”
Arriaga is among those in the Guard activated by Gov. Doug Ducey for COVID-19 relief around Arizona, and she has helped in other surrounding states.
“I was put on orders to provide relief to Arizona and support other units and my own,” she said. “I’ve been helping with food, stocking shelves, dispatching vehicles for the transport of medical supplies, which is all important to help the people of Arizona. They (the Guard) don't want shelves to be empty because people need food.”
Ennoby said COVID-19 has been a strange experience, not only in what she sees providing relief, but in the way she conducts her own classwork online.
“I haven't experienced anything like this and its a learning process for everyone out there,” she said. “I stay cautious, I’m going to school so I’m trying to maintain my grades, do the best I can for the Guard and my military duties and maintain my health.”
Managing her coursework, job and well-being is a balancing act she puts a high priority on. Her days usually include working full shifts with the Guard, doing homework in the hours between, getting in 15 to 20 minutes of daily self care or exercise and finding a few hours of sleep.
Her hard work and determination helped her earn the Karl and Yolanda Hartkopf legacy scholarship when she graduated from SHS, a fund that was dedicated by its namesakes to help first-generation students attend college.
She said to this day she does not know who nominated her, but the scholarship has made a huge difference in her life.
Jan Spooner, president of the Sahuarita Educational Enrichment Foundation, was the mentor assigned to Arriaga as part of the requirements of the scholarship.
“She basically is just an outstanding student in so many ways who had done service work, had really good grades and she is a first-generation college student,” Spooner said. “Ennoby fit the bill and was just delightful to interview with a passion for helping others and serving the community.”
Spooner and Arriaga meet each time the student returns to the area and stay in contact by phone.
“I feel like a proud mama to see how she’s grown in confidence since being a 12th-grader and she's achieved so much in two years,” Spooner said. “It's been really rewarding and its a privilege to give her the money she needs to do what she needs and to be along the journey with her.”
Arriaga is thankful to Spooner and all her SHS teachers for helping her through the challenges of her life.
“I met great teachers at SHS and those people helped shape my career,” she said. “Without them I wouldn't be who I am, especially Jan, she’s been so helpful and guided me in the right direction.”
To the students currently at her high school, she has a message of shedding hesitations and chasing after dreams, as well as finding a strong support system.
“I was going through some tough times in high school and at times I didn't feel I had anyone, but I did have great support in the teachers, my family and Jan,” she said. “A support system is so important to get through tough times and it can just be one person who you can really talk to and get through certain things in life with.”
Arriaga is set to graduate from ASU in the fall.