Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
College/School: School of Integrated Science and Humanity, College of Arts, Sciences, & Education
Cassandra Cardenas was diagnosed at birth with a serious heart condition – hypoplastic right ventricle and pulmonary atresia. With an underdeveloped right ventricle and a pulmonary valve that failed to develop properly, her heart could not pump blood to her lungs. She underwent her first heart surgery at just a day old, followed by surgeries at 10 months and 3 years old.
Cassandra, who grew up in California, graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA – a feat she repeated in Las Positas College in California and at FIU as a transfer student.
But there were challenges: At age 16 she started having flashbacks to her last surgery. She was ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and her experience in therapy for PTSD solidified her desire to pursue a degree in psychology.
At FIU, Cassandra interned at the Center for Children and Families in the STAND program, working with children and adolescents with ADHD. She is a member of several honor societies: Psi Chi (psychology), Phi Kappa Phi (top 7 percent of juniors), and Tau Sigma (transfer students). At Las Positas she served as vice president of the Psi Beta psychology honor society chapter. While at Las Positas, she also presented at the Western Psychological Association conference and volunteered with the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
Cassandra plans to pursue a graduate degree in psychology at FIU, with the goal of becoming a licensed mental health counselor.
By Madeline Baró
Director, Office of Media Relations