In life, sometimes we need adversity to shine through. In my personal experience, adversity motivated me to get through my education and graduate. I had to fight against people who thought I’d never be successful. I struggled financially, sometimes not knowing how my next bill would get paid or how I’d cover my tuition. I constantly moved around, always making sure my little one had a safe home. With my baby boy by my side and a support system of folks who wanted to see me succeed, I knew I couldn’t give up. I was especially motivated by the fact that, if I made it, my son would have access to opportunities that I never had.
Growing up, I always wanted to go to college… I just had no clue how I’d get there. I’m now a 29-year-old mom of two boys and I can finally say, viejitos lo logre! We graduated! As the daughter of immigrants, I felt this fire in me to pursue higher education. Being the youngest of 6 children, I witnessed the many struggles my parents and siblings endured. When I was a child, I saw how difficult it was for my parents to do landscape work and manual labor. I always thought to myself, I need to find another path for my life. Even though I admired my parents’ work ethic, I knew I had opportunities and I had to go to college. Instead of following my siblings’ footsteps, I wanted to forge my own footprints.
Ten years ago, in 2011, I was a senior in high school. I had applied to college and when I learned I had been rejected from my dream school, I blamed myself. I thought it was my fault for not being smart enough or talented enough. I remember thinking, “you didn’t work hard enough!” I felt like a fool, but I did not quit. People saw potential in me, before I even knew what that meant. My potential led me to get accepted to Cal State Northridge as a civil engineering major.
I wanted to be the first person in my family to graduate college. At the time, my dream was also to stand out in a male-dominated field. As I sat in my first college seminar, I counted the number of women sitting in Civil Engineering 101. There were 3 of us and I remember thinking, “Wow, Gabby, you did it. If you finish it, you can really make a difference.” Unfortunately, I struggled to adapt and struggled with time management, as I was also working. I ended up failing a few courses my first semester.
My second semester I found out I was going to be a mom. That’s when everything changed and I knew I’d have to work harder than ever. I continued at CSUN and decided to pay out-of-pocket for summer school to avoid getting put on academic probation. I pushed until I couldn’t afford it anymore and had to make the hard decision of leaving CSUN.
Even though I left CSUN, I slowly took classes at community college and eventually transferred to the University of La Verne. In 2020, I became a mom of 2. In 2021, I graduated with my bachelors degree and got accepted to Mount Saint Mary’s University for my Masters Program. To be real, my decade-long journey was anything but easy. However, as my uncle, Ray used to say, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” I always had it in my heart to succeed and, with the help of everyone who supported me, lo logre – I did it!