The Fresno Pacific University community mourns the loss of Yessenia Avila and her father, Rogelio, who died in an automobile-truck collision on a foggy morning January 29, 2024, as Rogelio was bringing Yessenia to class. A 20-year-old Fresnan, Yessina was studying to become a medical doctor.

Many students were honored to be Yessenia’s friend. Here are thoughts from a few:

Yesenia Cortez

“I came to meet Yessenia through a class we had together. We had a couple and would laugh at how our professors would mix us up because of our names. She always had a smile and was very energetic. Her presence would make everyone smile. She would always have jokes and was ready to make everyone laugh. What I’ll miss most about Yessi is how she always came into the place where our friends and I worked with her fun energy, and our conversations, whether fun silly ones or deep meaningful ones. She truly was a beautiful human with an even more beautiful soul. I’ll miss my twin.” 

Marlene Mijangos Guzman

“Just knowing Yessi was a quiet and shy person makes me laugh because with me she was always laughing and talking nonstop. She trusted me with her life story and even brought down her walls to become my closest friend, so I’d say her trust in me was what made her extremely special. We were stuck to each other's hip going out to eat lunch, going to class and even building Legos. We would hang out any possibility we had, and it was always a fun adventure. We even had plans for the future together, but unfortunately, we have promises that will not be fulfilled until we meet again.”

Karina Oritz Ramirez

“Yessenia was a wonderful, loving, caring and energetic friend who always made me and those around her smile, even on the bad days. I got to know her due to all the friends we had in common, and there was no day we did not have a good time or laugh. Yessi was wonderful and beautiful inside and out and she always knew if something was wrong and tried her best to make you feel better and be present for you not to feel alone. It was an honor and a blessing to have her in my life and I hope one day I can see her again.” 

Instructor Rachel Savage got to know Yessenia as a student in her CP152L College Success Strategies class.

“When I think of Yessenia in the classroom, I think of a hard-working, receptive, gracious student. She was persistent, ready to take on the challenges in front of her to reach her goals. She came to FPU knowing who she wanted to be. In CP-152 students share their thoughts on their career goals and Yessenia was single-minded: she wanted to help the people of her community feel seen and safe. She wanted her work to help people to live healthy, meaningful lives. She wanted to wear the white coat, to be a family doctor and to make her practice a place where patients smiled.” 

Thanks to a “poetic introduction” she wrote for Medieval and Early Modern Civilizations, taught by Pam Johnston, Ph.D., associate professor of history, Yessenia can have the last word:

I am from hard working parents that always put their kids first.
I am from grandma’s home made flour tortillas.
I am from always follow your heart.
I am from big family with many uncles, that have too much fun.

PHOTO: Yessenia and Rogelio Avila



Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations