I wanted to share the journey of a friend whom I see as a role model, especially to Latinas. Alicia Gaspar has persevered; her story will inspire anyone who may be stuck in a mindset that their goals and dreams aren’t obtainable.
Over a decade ago when I first immigrated to this country, I met a young Latina like myself at one of the first jobs I had. A special bond connected us as we were both from Oaxaca, Mexico. When we realized we were paisanas (two people from the same place of origin) we started a friendship.
Alicia migrated more than twenty years ago, leaving her country in order to secure a better life for her family, as many of us do. Alicia was very timid and barely spoke to anyone at work. Neither of us spoke nor understood English. We worked at a Cinnabon bakery, making yummy cinnamon rolls. One day when the cashier and the manager didn’t show up for work, I learned how to run the cash register. Although I didn’t speak English, I managed to stay on as a cashier. Shortly after, I asked Alicia if she wanted me to teach her. Although I thought she might say no, to my surprise her immediate answer was yes! We both saw this as a small accomplishment and were very excited. This is the first time I saw her bravery, but it wouldn’t be the last.
A short time after, Alicia began going to school to learn English. Alicia had been dating a guy who only spoke English. They fell in love early on, which made Alicia even more motivated to master the language. I often wondered how they would communicate, but they understood each other well enough to get married after a few months of dating. Obviously for them, language was not a barrier.
Alicia attended local public schools in eastern San José, California for four years where she mastered the English language, and finished high school. She then set her goal to obtain a college degree. No matter how long it would take, she didn’t plan to stop until she reached it. When she began attending Evergreen College, she was expecting a baby girl and also found out her father in Mexico had become ill and needed care. Alicia put school on pause, caring for her father until his last days. She then returned to the US to try and rebuild her life. Unfortunately, when she came back, Alicia and her husband lost their home and slept in their car for a month. Alicia was persistent with her goals regardless of her struggles. She returned to school once her daughter was born. It wasn’t easy; math was her most difficult subject. She failed many times, but in the end, she succeeded and transferred to San José State University.
2020 was a difficult year for so many, however, the wonderful news I received after so much struggle and effort was that Alicia Patron de Gaspar graduated on December 18th, from San José State University with a degree in Business Administration, and an emphasis in Management.
Congratulations Alicia, I am beyond proud. Without a doubt, you are a role model to many. I am excited to hear about your next set of goals, and what the future holds for you and your family.
When I called to congratulate Alicia, I asked her to provide women (especially Latinas) with some advice for when life gets challenging:
First and foremost, believe in yourself every single step of the way. Believe in yourself so much you will never consider turning back. Always look forward.
Having the ability to learn is something very special, however it is not easy because there are many obstacles that can come our way. When the toughest challenges come, that’s the time you hold your goals close to your heart and give it your all. Always remember, you have what it takes!
Alicia Gaspar De Patrón-
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