Student Story: Endless Possibilities with Strength through Adversity

I am a Latina, a first-generation college student, a mother, a wife, and an education advocate for underprivileged communities. I am convinced that advocating for education can improve our quality of life and open many doors for us to build a strong nation in the future.

I was born in the United States, but I was raised in Bolivia, the country where I spent all of my childhood. I faced economic barriers as a child. I did not have access to advanced education or extracurricular activities, but I always knew that I wanted a change in my life. I didn’t know where or how to begin, but I was certain of one thing: I wanted to break the cycle of poverty.

When I returned to the United States as an adult, I worked in the hospitality industry. Through several job promotions, I was able to gain experience in a variety of positions. I was proud of my accomplishments, but one piece of the puzzle was missing: my education. I felt empowered the day my daughter was born. I began setting personal and professional goals because I had the strength and courage to step outside of my comfort zone, confronting my lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Two months later, I was enrolled in my first class as a first-generation college student at my local community college. I was concerned about how I would manage my time if my daughter became sick or if I had other responsibilities while on campus, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes were moved to a fully virtual format within a few weeks.

After finishing my associate degree in accounting, it was time to transfer to a university to finish my bachelor’s degree. Because I had a taste of what a virtual campus would be like and how convenient it would be for my current circumstances as a mom, I did extensive research to find a school and program that would be a good fit based on my needs. Penn State World Campus provided me with everything I needed. I enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, which allowed me to study from home at any time of day and offered a plethora of resources for involvement, such as affinity groups, of which I am currently a member. Choosing Penn State World Campus enabled me to further my education while also embracing my background and making me feel like a valuable asset to the school, which provides me with top-notch education.

I am currently interning at a Big Four accounting firm, and when I graduate in May 2024, I intend to join the firm as a new hire and continue embracing opportunities to grow and be my best self, as well as enhancing my knowledge to continue working toward my education advocacy — dedicated to underserved communities by being a helpful resource to make a difference in their lives.

Being a first-generation college student presents numerous challenges, but I can assure you that education is the right path to take and is something you will not regret. Investing my time in my education has been the best decision of my life.

As a result of my personal experience, I became inspired to advocate for education within the Latino community — for those who lose confidence in their abilities, for those who doubt they have the ability to go to college, for those for whom English is their second language, and for those who are already parents like me.

This calling resonates with me so strongly that I want to go out there and shout out all of the benefits and joys it has brought to my life. The day I chose education over conformity, I began to give my community hope for a better tomorrow. As a first-generation American and first-generation college student, I am well aware of the challenges we face when it comes to deciding on an education when you have already started a family and are not financially prepared to balance things out, and that is why I am speaking up to encourage you.

I contribute to this cause by giving informative talks in my social circle about all the benefits of pursuing an education and all the doors that will open — not just for students, but for their entire family and their community. I assist in the completion of college applications and FAFSA forms, provide resources for scholarships, help students compare degree programs to make the right choice for them, and inform students with children about affordable/free childcare resources so they can balance school, work, and family effectively. After their enrollment, I keep encouraging students to keep working toward their goals and not give up, because it will all be worth it in the end. I strongly believe that together we can overcome adversity, which is the key to a nation’s success.

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