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Saturday, December 2, 2023

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Abby Castro as a child at the groundbreaking for the relocated Children's Center and later recreating the photo as part of her undergraduate graduation photos. (Courtesy photos) Abby Castro as a child at the groundbreaking for the relocated Children's Center and later recreating the photo as part of her undergraduate graduation photos. (Courtesy photos)

Aztec for Life: SDSU Graduate Comes Full Circle at the Children's Center

Abby Castro teaches at the SDSU Children’s Center, where she went to school as a toddler.
By Aaron Burgin

The slogan “Aztec for Life” might not fit anyone better than it does Abigail “Abby” Castro


Some of Castro’s earliest memories were made at the SDSU Children’s Center on the east side of campus where she played on the jungle gym at Memory Park while her mother, Janet Castro, was serving in various positions on campus, including as director of New Student and Parent Programs. 


Today, Castro is a new master’s graduate in child development after receiving her bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University. And, she’s teaching at the very center where she spent her formative years. 


“I think about how rare it is to get these very full circle moments of being a child at the center to becoming a teacher and learning about child development to now working there full time. It’s kind of incredible,” said Castro, who serves as one of the center’s master teachers. “And now, getting to work as a peer with people who were teachers at the center when I was a kid, it’s just an interesting thing to reflect on and see every day I’m working.”


Many students when they choose SDSU comment on the family feel of the campus. For Abby Castro, that experience resonated on a personal level. 


Castro said some of her fondest memories growing up were spent on campus. She would attend basketball games with her father, Gil, also a longtime SDSU employee, and younger sister Alex, who is currently a third-year business major. 


Sometimes, she and Alex would help their mother out with work tasks, such as helping to set up the stage and distribute name tags at New Student and Family Convocation, stuffing packets for New Student Orientation and participating in Ambassador retreats. 


Her mother, Janet, vividly recalls one time when she let the girls test out Aztec Nights carnival rides before the students arrived. 


“As a mother, I don't know what I was thinking let them test the rides first,” Janet Castro said with a smile. 


The familiarity with campus initially served as an impetus for Abby to not want to attend SDSU as an undergrad. It was too close to home — literally and figuratively. She wanted to go to school in Kentucky, where her mother’s family lives. 


“I was originally dead set against going to SDSU; it was too familiar. I grew up on campus,” she said. “I kind of just wanted a different experience initially.


“But the deciding factors were that I had done a lot of AP classes, so I didn’t have to take certain college courses, and out-of-state tuition was a lot more expensive. I wanted to be practical,” she said. 


Working with children


Castro, who started her undergraduate studies in 2017, originally was a hospitality major. She started working at the Children’s Center the summer before her first year and, over the course of the first year of school, fell in love with working with children. 


“Seeing the group of kids I was teaching develop and grow as toddlers in real-time and watching them get excited about the little things we take for granted as adults made me excited to make the jump to child development.”


By her junior year, Castro switched to a double major in child development and recreation tourism, continuing with child development in graduate school. She plans on continuing with the Children’s Center at least until her cohort, which includes mostly 2- and 3-year-olds, ages out at age 5. 


And the familiarity that almost made her not attend SDSU? Now she loves it, Castro said. Walks on campus usually include staff members commenting that they remembered her when she was “this big,” Castro said, using her hand to gesture the height. 


“Entering college, I know that a lot of my peers got homesick, but it was different for me because I could pop into my mom’s office and have lunch with her, talk to her, and I personally really enjoyed it,” she Castro said. “I feel like it is amazing to have such a long history with SDSU growing up and being a part of this campus for so long.”


Janet Castro concurs.


“I love having them on campus,” Castro said of her daughters. “It helped our relationship grow even stronger.


“When they were younger it felt so safe, as well as convenient, to have them at the Children's Center. If there were ever an emergency, I could get to them right away. It taught them the value of community service and giving back at an early age. Since [they became] students, we are able to spend quality time together during the commute from Chula Vista to SDSU. And now that Abby has a full-time job on campus, she can drive me to work and pay for the gas,” Castro said.