Alumni Story: A Change in Plans

By: Tracey Reyna

I have never been so disappointed in myself as the day I went to school to drop out of my college courses. Up until that day, I was sure that I would graduate as I did from high school, back in 2008. I aspired to complete an Associate’s degree and follow through into a university right after. I was so focused and determined that I never thought I would have to face a host of challenges in the coming years.

After graduating from high school with honors, I felt like I was on top of the world. All of my hard work had paid off and I had something to show for it. I had a solid plan of what I was going to do. I would go to ACC (Austin Community College) to earn an Associate’s degree and from there, get accepted to a first-tier university where I’d graduate with a Bachelor’s by 2012.

But life has a way of changing one’s plans…

During my last two years of high school, there were some problems that had come up within my family. Problems that weren’t mine, but involved people I loved, and it made me feel like I needed to be financially responsible for myself. I witnessed my parents facing financial hardship and I felt obligated to help as soon as possible. Therefore, at the first opportunity I had to make my own decisions, I decided to get two jobs while still being a full-time college student. I didn’t want to be a burden to my parents and I wanted to begin paying for some of my own things, like my cell phone bill and gas. To me, that didn’t seem like much, and my parents were opposed, but I wanted to help in any way possible.

I soon realized that the responsibilities I chose to burden myself with were not going to be as easy as I thought.

During my third semester at ACC, it had all caught up to me. Assisting my family, managing two jobs, going to school full-time and taking on an engagement with my long time boyfriend all played a part in me becoming stressed and exhausted everyday. I lost focus, started falling behind in school and ended up having to drop all of my classes.

Dropping out of school was something I was not proud of. I was disappointed in myself because I didn’t follow through with what I said I was going to and I couldn’t help but feel ashamed. This wasn’t what I wanted for myself, but at the time, what my family was going through and what I could do to help, seemed as a good enough reason to justify what I had done. So I kept working hard to achieve my new goal of becoming financially independent.

After a small break from school, I realized I was comfortable with where I was at in life. I was making good money from working two jobs, so I didn’t see a reason to go back to school. However, my persistent mother always questioned my intentions of not going back and didn’t let me forget how important school was for my future. So after a lot of long conversations with her, she won me over and convinced me to take some classes again. At that time, the family problems were still haunting us, so even though I wanted to go back to school, I wanted something I could finish fast to help me get a better job than what I had. That’s why I looked into trade schools and wound up attending Everest Institute. It wasn’t my Associates degree that I was working towards, but I thought surely something was better than nothing. So to a degree, I was happy. After I enrolled to Everest and studied to be a Medical Administrative Assistant, I was able to quit both of my jobs. With the help of God, I graduated on a Saturday and got hired the following Tuesday at the OB/GYN office where I currently work full-time.

During the process of it all, my fiancé and I tied the knot and shortly after bought a house, something I am very proud of.

It is now 2012, and even though everything I have accomplished to this day has made me extremely happy and content, I have to be honest with myself. Nothing would satisfy me more than to finish what I initially started: my college education. That is why I am looking into going back to ACC this fall to pick up where I left off. I know it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a lot of work, but I also believe it is something that is going to pay off in the end. I feel I’m in a good place in life right now where I can give myself that opportunity of doing something even better for myself. So all in all, I’m very excited for what the future holds in store for me.

Tracey Reyna graduated high school in 2008 and was a Con Mi MADRE program participant for six years. Her favorite parts about the program were college visits and Con mi Padre events. She is continuing college courses this fall.

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