Selena Juarez-Alvarado is a 28-year-old military wife and mother of two daughters, ages 13 and 9 years old.
It took her seven years to obtain her degree in Biology and Health with a 3.5 GPA; she is the first college graduate in her family this spring.
She has her hands full. With her husband deployed, she takes care of their two kids, has been a full-time student for the last two years, and is the PTA president at Vista La Mesa Academy and Girl Scout leader.
Some would consider her lucky because she does not have to work outside the home. But at a young age, she had to make her own decisions and take her future into her hands.
She said that at the age of fourteen she left her home due to years of sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence. She was pregnant with her boyfriend’s child and they decided to live together.
Juarez took the birth of her daughter as if she was given a second chance in life.
“When I was pregnant, I could feel that mother-daughter love. My daughter saved me; she gave me that love that I really needed.”
She had to mature fast and take control of her own destiny, defying statistics that predicted that the young couple would not survive together. They have been together for 15 years. “I and my husband are very strong; we go hiking, we have dates.”
She got her life back on track and is hoping to transfer to Cal State-San Marcos or the nursing program at Grossmont College, whichever comes first. Selena’s goal is to earn a Master’s of Science in nursing and be a nurse practitioner.
“I am a scientist, but I am more a people’s person; I am somebody that cares. I chose this career because it is a different kind of interaction. I am going to help sick people in those crucial times.”
She was reluctant about participating at the graduation ceremony, but her 13 year-old daughter told her, “Mom, you have to walk.”
“I believe that seeing me will inspire other students to think… ‘I can do it too.’ ” And definitely she will be sending them a message about tenacity, hard work and perseverance, but above all, about the importance of education.
When asked why she decided to celebrate her graduation in a Chicano-Latina graduation, she said professor Enrique Davalos opened her eyes. “He inspired me with his classes; he made me proud of who I am; of my ethnicity, since we have had so many restrictions.”
“I want to inspire my daughters about my culture. I am proud of being a Chicana; but it shouldn’t matter our race, but meeting our goals.”
Juarez joined the MESA Program at City College with director Rafael Alvarez. There, he inspired her to want to achieve; it completely changed her outlook in the supporting system at City College.
Juarez says that instructors have a saying at the Mesa Program: “Be a creator and not a victim; making excuses is not going to get you anywhere.”
Her husband, Jesus Alvarado, 29, works in a Navy hospital and is taking biology at City College. He will be graduating in fall 2013.