Maribel Mendoza obtained her Associate Degree in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education at SAC and graduated on May 27th. She runs a child care center in her home.

“Every Saturday, for almost three years, starting at 5 a.m., I would begin the routine of finishing my homework, leave food already for my family and pack my lunchbag for a long day of classes at St. Augustine College in Chicago. I would leave my daughters and my husband for 12 hours to pursue my dream of becoming a pre-school education professional… but it was worth it and today I am a happy graduate,” said Maribel Mendoza, a Mexican resident of suburban Waukegan.

Maribel, mother of two daughters ages 18 and 12, earned an Associate in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education at SAC and graduated on May 27th. She belonged to a hard-working student group from Waukegan who, as of now, travel for more than an hour from this suburb to SAC’s main campus, to attend their weekly classes in one day. They start at 9 a.m. and end at 7 p.m…. rain, snow or thunder.

“Every Saturday was the same routine. We would organize ourselves in groups depending on the area we lived in,” she recalls from her home in Waukegan where she runs her child care center.” It was very hard. These bags under my eyes (as she touches her eyes), they are product of the long nights I would stay up studying and finishing homework. But the most difficult was the impact that it had on my family, it was painful leaving my daughter who was 9 years old at the time, and I also missed many family moments. Pursuing this dream of becoming a professional, had a high cost,” she said while remembering the hard times travelling to Chicago, as when one night her car broke down in the middle of the road.” And that’s not counting the times I drove my car in the middle of snowstorms while driving back home,” she said.

Maribel Mendoza arrived in the United States in 1989 and always resided in the suburb of Waukegan. “I arrived at the age of 18, my mother was 60 and my brother was 13. At first we suffered from poverty, I can remember the cold nights where four people had to share a single blanket, and the snow would seep into our shoes because we did not have winter boots,” she recalled. “Due to the economic need of the family, I had to get a job, so I went into a packing company where I worked for 20 years. At the age of 23, I had my first daughter and then i had my second daughter. Due to my job, I was always anguished because my daughters were home alone until about 8 p.m. when I would return home, my husband worked the second shift.”

She recalls one day when her youngest daughter was 8, and did not answer the phone after school. “I did not know if she had arrived home. It was hours of great torment and I knew nothing, nor my husband. So I left work; luckily nothing happened, but the next day I resigned. As I had no way of making a living, it occurred to me to open a child care center in my house so I may take care of my daughters at the same time,” she said. She then fulfilled all the requirements and soon opened the care center,” but I realized that I was limited in knowledge and services because of my lack of education. It was then that I decided to study and chose SAC because they offered the classes in Spanish and English, and here in Waukegan there is no such possibility. It was the best decision I took to improve my life,” she concluded.

Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Early Childhood Education at SAC

The AAS in Early Childhood Education provides early childhood education theory and practice for students. This course is ideal for anyone who aspires to become a teacher, teacher assistant, teacher aide or activities supervisor in a public or private pre-school program, child-care center, nursery school, or with a home-based education provider.

Graduates of this program will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental principles of early childhood development.
  • Understand that successful early childhood education depends upon partnerships with children’s families and communities.
  • Learn to observe, document, and assess young children and families.
  • Understand and use developmentally appropriate approaches, instructional strategies, and tools.

St. Augustine College is an entitled institution through Gateways to Opportunity for the ECE Credential and the Infant/Toddler Credential at levels 2-4. As an entitled institution, St. Augustine College has aligned its courses with specific credential benchmarks. A student who graduates from this entitled institution not only has a degree, but also a credential that is recognized by the state of Illinois.

by Eduardo Alegria

Translation to English: Johanna Castro