Of the 347 excited students attending the graduation ceremony at St. Augustine College on May 27, 2017, two of them confess they are not only getting the reward for their efforts, but the transformation of their lives. 

 

Johana Castro graduated with honors 

Of Ecuadorian-Mexican ancestry, Johanna Castro graduated Summa Cum Laude – the highest degree that a student achieves – obtaining an Associate in Applied Sciences in Computer Information Systems, with a concentration in Programming and Applications. 

“I honestly thought it was not possible to graduate college when I finished high school. I studied only two semesters in a different college because I had to work to help my family with the economic expenses. Knowing that  I’m going to graduate with honors, I feel … Oh my God … it is a great satisfaction to say that yes, I was able to achieve my dream. This has transformed my life”, said Johanna Castro.  

“I know this achievement is because of my efforts, but I couldn’t have done any of it, without my mom. Mami is my… (tears interrupt her), she is my inspiration, my motor. She is the biggest support I have, without her, I would have nothing and could not have achieved it. When I didn’t have the motivation, she gave it to me, she always told me ‘you can do it, I know it’s not easy but you can do it’… She’s the biggest support I’ve ever had,” she revealed. 

Johanna said that her parents didn’t even get to go to high school. “That’s why they always taught me and my siblings to study. My mother always said: ‘You have to study because the dummy in the family is me’ I am the first in my family to finish college and I am very proud to give that joy to my parents; and also for demonstrating that it is possible to achieve the dreams of being someone better to myself, although to achieve it, many sacrifices were made and it costs a lot of work; But believe me, it’s worth everything. There are no words to describe everything I feel.” 

Johanna also mentioned that she plans to obtain a combined degree, working on her bachelor’s and master’s degree at the same time.  “I know I can do it,” she concluded. 

 

Guadalupe Díaz, achieved the unthinkable 

Guadalupe Diaz, married with three children,  of Mexican descent, graduates as Magna Cum Laude – the second highest grade achieved by a student – obtaining her Associate in Applied Sciences in Culinary Arts.  

“Graduating for me,  is not only getting a degree to work at a prestigious restaurant, It is a personal and family achievement, because this is a triumph for my whole family, my husband and my children. For me personally, it is the satisfaction that apart from being a mother, a wife,  a daughter and all those functions in my life, I was able to graduate from a professional career. It’s something that I thought I would not be able to do after finishing high school 12 years ago because I had my children…It’s been a long wait to savor this moment … (Guadalupe is interrupted by her tears)… I did not do it for my children, my husband or my parents, but for myself,” she said. 

Guadalupe confesses that she is excited because it is a satisfaction that before mistakenly thought that it was not for her. “It was like many thought that because of my age school was no longer for me. Now, knowing that I did it, no matter how old I am, I’m going to walk in my gown, I’m going to have my graduation ceremony, my graduation party and my title that credits all my effort. It was worth not only my sleeplessness, but all my husband’s efforts to work alone to keep the house, pay for books, gas, and pick up the children from school while I was studying; And also the sacrifice of my children who were the ones who had to stay longer in school because mom was in school too; and had short summer vacations because mom also needed to take summer classes. That is what excites me, the satisfaction that I achieved something that changed my life and that fills me with something internal that I can’t describe … that’s what my graduation means to me,” she said.