My Higher Education Journey as a First-Gen Student and Mom of Two

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!

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Gabriela Ramos

Gabriela Ramos

Gabriela Ramos was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Her parents immigrated from Mexico in search of better opportunities for their children. Gabriela is the youngest of 6 siblings and the first in her family to pursue higher education. She completed her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of La Verne and is currently pursuing her Masters in Education at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Gabriela became a young mom at twenty-years-old during her undergraduate years, which further ignited her passion for education. She’s now a mom of two boys and while being a student parent hasn’t always been easy, she knows it’s worth it. In addition to being a student and a mom, Gabriela is a Learning Support teacher at a Catholic elementary school. She herself is a product of LAUSD and is an active advocate for her children’s education. Gabriela is passionate about ensuring every child receives a fair education and, as an educator, hopes to inspire other mothers, students, and educators.

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