Raúl Cárdenas Jr.

Dr.Raúl Cárdenas Jr. was born in El Paso, Texas in a hospital called  “Hotel Du,” on November 18,1965. At a young age, he and his family moved to different places such as Davis, California, and Mesa, Arizona because of his father’s work.  Education played a massive role in Cárdenas’ life because his father was a worker at El Paso Community College. 

South Phoenix was a very rural area in the 1970s. It used to be flat land with flower fields, where South Mountain Community College was built on April 16, 1978. 

When going to work with his father he thought he would be able to have a little bit of freedom, but his dad was a strong “Rule Follower”. Raúl was a little mischievous when his dad was working and would get scolded often. During his sophomore year of high school, South Mountain Community College was built. As his father was the first Mexican-American founder of a community college, he felt responsible for following the rules, ensuring everyone would get treated equally.  

Growing up, his father influenced many of his decisions. He wasn’t the biggest fan of his father’s lectures—however, looking back, he values his advice a lot more now. 

When working to get his Doctorate Degree in 1997-1998 Raúl saw how many latinos had their Doctorate Degree. To no surprise, it wasn’t many. “Only about 800 Latinos/Hispanics students in the nation,” he said.

 When the College was growing its community Raúl was always there, it was a tradition in their family. Each time there was a graduation from the college they always had parties with mariachis and all of the faculty of South Mountain Community College would attend. “Faculty and students always felt like extensions to their family.” 

Dr. Raúl Cárdenas Jr. attended Scottsdale Community College, then transferred to Pepperdine University to finish his schooling. Fresh out of University, he started looking for jobs, and almost every recruiter would be enthusiastic about wanting to hire him. He would get called back by many companies, although, after job recruiters would realize he was Dr. Raúl Cárdenas Jr., he would get treated like other applicants. He faced some challenges but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t overcome. He felt the responsibility of the Cardenas name. Raúl finally landed a job at ASU and put in 20 years of work. 

Raúl’s point of view as to why his father pushed so hard for South  Mountain Community College is a very touching story for the Southern Phoenix 

community. He said, “he needed to provide hope for this community.” The history of SMCC may seem simple but that’s not the case. There’s always more to look forward to, and he thanks us all for the memories and discoveries students create at SMCC. He states in our interview, “Those memories will always be at the heart of it and they will always stay there. Future students will appreciate those memories, but his family appreciates them more than anyone else”(Timestamp: 30:00). Dr. Rául Cárdenas Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps and wants to make his parents very proud of him. May the legacy of his father’s work continue on.

NarratorDr. Raul Cardenas Jr.
BirthdateNovember 18, 1965
Place of OriginEl Paso, TX
Place Of ResidenceDenver, CO
Role/OccupationPresident and CEO of Mullen High School in Denver
Interview DateMarch 24, 2022
LocationZoom, Online
Interview Conducted ByArleth Rodriguez and Yanai Anaya
Story Written ByArleth Rodriguez and Yanai Anaya