“They teach you to love yourself how you are. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are, or the language you speak; they respect us.” 

When Veronica Vega gave her speech as valedictorian of St. Augustine College’s (SAC) 2020 Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, she credited the institution for opening the door to a brighter future—not just for her but for her entire family. “St. Augustine College gave me the power to believe,” says Vega, a native of Ecuador who transferred to St. Augustine College (SAC) with some college credit and a 15-month-old daughter at home. “I was very nervous to be back in school after so many years. But at St. Augustine College, they teach you to be confident,” explains Vega, who immigrated to Chicago when she was 14. “They teach you to love yourself how you are. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are, or the language you speak; they respect us.” Vega heard about SAC from a cousin who was also an alumna—a family connection that continued when her husband enrolled in the same ECE program she was pursuing. The couple graduated a year apart and hopes to someday open a day care center in their northwest Chicago neighborhood. “The teachers at St. Augustine opened my mind to the idea that a higher education is going to take you to better opportunities in life, especially in the United States,” says Vega. “I am grateful to St. Augustine College for understanding our situations as parents and that we don’t fluently speak English.” She says this is what encourages students like her to strive and achieve what they might have once thought impossible. “I finished my associate and now I want to get my bachelor’s degree,” adds Vega. “For both me and my husband, St. Augustine College opened our minds to the idea that we can keep looking for more—that we can keep reaching for goals—because they give us the confidence that we can do anything if we want it.”