Campus Student Feature: Lucina C.

Campus Student Feature: Lucina C.
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education to set students up for success no matter what their next step is. Read on to learn about our students’ unique experiences.

Lucina's story is about a first-generation Latina overcoming challenges that affected her family and herself personally throughout her life. Being raised in a small Minnesota town as part of the only Hispanic family in her community, Lucina has faced struggles with identity, discrimination, and finding her way in the world. 

Yet, with the power of her strong connection to her family, her friends, and new relationships with her peers, Lucina inspires us as she forges her path in college and beyond.

Masking Heritage for “Harmony” 

Growing up in Minnesota with her mother, father, and younger sister, Flora, Lucina’s story is an eye-opener about growing up learning how to fit in at school while staying true to her family’s roots

“We lived in a small town, a very small town, and basically we were one of the only Hispanic families,” Lucina told Campus. “So growing up, I felt like I had to put on a front. I curated a personality of myself so I could protect my family.”

Conversations about different cultures and ethnicities in her elementary school classes shed light on how Lucina’s family had been treated differently from other families in the same town. Lucina shared she felt pressured to conform to an idealized image of an "all-American" girl to protect herself and her family from stereotypes and scrutiny. Toning down her once outgoing demeanor, Lucina opted to water down her own personality from a very young age. 

“I was quiet. I was obedient,” she noted. “And I did what I had to do so I wouldn't raise speculation on my family being immigrants.”

This started an internal conflict that Lucina had to reconcile. Oftentimes, even though she put on a mask and played the part of a “perfect” girl while she was in school, she would still face exclusion and resentment from her classmates, and it started eating away at her. Why was it that despite her best efforts to blend in, she was continuously picked on? 

“I didn't want to get involved in anything, didn't want to bring attention to myself, nothing. I just wanted to hide,” Lucina said. 

“But in one aspect, even with me creating this perfect image for myself, I still found myself stuck in this stereotype of being a loud, Hispanic woman, and I could never escape it.”

The Phone Call That Changed Their Lives

Even outside of the classroom, Lucina’s family faced the community’s prejudice against people with their background. Recalling some of her family’s experiences in Minnesota, she described that it felt like they were being consistently monitored by police officers. However, this didn’t stop her family from making the most of their lives together. 

“It was really stressful growing up, but even then, there were still some good times,” Lucina said. 

“We did everything we could because my dad believed that you can't fear what's going to happen because you'll end up driving yourself miserable. That's a main theme in our family: live life to the fullest because you never know what's going to happen.”

In line with their family mantra, Lucina’s family traveled often. One of the most notable memories for Lucina was a month-long trip to Los Angeles for their summer vacation when she was 15. The highlight of this journey was Lucina’s quinceañera.

“I had hundreds of people come over baking food, making molé, like our traditional dishes, because I am Oaxaqueña, my mom is Oaxaqueña and my dad is Jalisciense. So for my quinceañera, we combined both Mexican cultures and it was a very fun event.” Lucina lit up as she reflected, but then her expression changed. 

“I really liked it, but that all came crumbling down when we came home.”

All in all, the family vacation was filled with joy, laughter, and a deep sense of community that made their summer in L.A. truly special, but after driving three days to get back to their home in Minnesota, Lucina’s family received some heartbreaking news.

“We didn't even finish unpacking,” Lucina said. “We left everything in the car because after the drive from California to Minnesota, we just all went to bed. And when we woke up the next morning, I clearly remember it: that's when we got the phone call that my dad had been deported.”

From that point on, their lives as they knew it were completely changed. They packed the rest of their belongings, and Lucina, her mother, and her younger sister all moved to Los Angeles to live with Lucina’s grandparents for a few months while her father left the country.

The move came with major adjustments for Lucina, including starting school in L.A. in a completely new high school, yet not long after, she, her mother, and her sister all moved to Mexico.

The Start of Lucina’s College Journey

Years later, when Lucina was ready to set out on her college journey, she moved back to the U.S. to pursue her bachelor’s degree in engineering. Though she wasn’t entirely sure what options would be best for her in terms of which four-year school to attend, she knew from the time she was in kindergarten that she wanted to learn about engineering. 

“I really liked building things. I really liked figuring out how things are made,” Lucina said. “I was good at math, and when my teachers were talking to me, they were like, ‘You know what? I think you could do really well in engineering.’”

Inspired by the confidence her teachers had given her throughout the years, Lucina knew exactly what she wanted to do, but the question still remained: where should she go to college? 

She wasn’t originally from California or familiar with any of the colleges in the state, so she relied heavily on the support that she got from her high school counselor, who, after weighing Lucina’s wants with her financial needs, recommended that she apply to the University of California, Merced (UC Merced). 

“At the time I was like, ‘You know what? Whoever takes me, I'll go,’ and I really enjoyed it,” Lucina shared. “But I had to drop out of university because I couldn't afford another semester.”

Answering the Call for Something New

After dropping out of UC Merced, Lucina went back to Mexico to spend time with her family and emotionally recover from having to leave her program for financial reasons. However, this also gave Lucina time to reflect on what else she could do for her college path moving forward. Her mother recommended that she consider searching for online colleges, and Lucina absolutely agreed with her, although they didn’t agree on what she should study. 

“You could stay hell-bent on attending a college to study engineering, but since engineering is so hands-on, there are no online courses for that at all,” Lucina shared. “So I also took a couple of months off of that because then I was like, ‘Well, what am I gonna do now?’”

Hearing the news, Lucina’s mother started working with her to try to find another path. Instead of earning a degree in engineering, Lucina’s mother recommended that she try looking into business management.

“Ever since I was little, my mom was always like, ‘Why don’t you go into business management? Do business management,’ and I was like ‘Amá, stop! That's not what I want to do,’” Lucina recalled with a smile. 

Then, as luck would have it, Lucina came across Campus while she was watching her sister play a game on her phone. After seeing an ad talking about an online business program, Lucina took an interest.

“Campus seemed a little too good to be true so I clicked on the post and I applied,” she said. “I started researching it more, and then the admissions team called me and explained everything to me.”

While talking it over with her family, Lucina was still trying to decide if this program was the right move for her. Was business administration really the right way to go? 

“I was still on the verge of deciding,” Lucina shared. “I was like, ‘I don't know if I'm ready,’ and when I told my mom it was a business administration program, she's like, ‘Do it! It's a sign,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I'll try,’ and that's how I ended up at Campus.”

Life After Campus: A Future Engineer?

Naturally, when we asked Lucina what her goals were after graduating from the Campus Scholars program with her associate in business administration, she shared her desire to continue where she left off with her engineering studies.

“After I get this degree, I still want to go back and study engineering because I really enjoy building things, planning things, and just figuring out how things work.”

As far as which schools she has in mind for her engineering degree, she shared with us how her relationships with our professors are helping her shape that decision.

“I'm really hoping to go to UC Davis,” Lucina declared. “Professor Theresa Walsh is amazing. I love her so much, and one thing that really truly made me like, ‘Wow, I'm back studying and I have a chance at a future now,’ was when she offered a letter of recommendation for me.“

According to Lucina, the gesture from Professor Walsh really shook her to her core because before joining Campus, she’d never been in a position where she felt like she could go to a top school. Though she had often heard from her friends that she had what it takes to get into a great school based on her grades and her drive, Lucina hadn’t had the opportunity to hear it from someone who teaches at prestigious programs.

“Before Campus, I didn't think I'd be able to get into one of those top schools,” Lucina said. “For people like me with untraditional backgrounds, I had no hope at all, and Campus was able to give me that hope again. I'm really grateful.”

Learn More About the Campus Experience 

If Lucina’s story resonates with you, or her words about Campus have caught your attention, be sure to check out the Campus online associate degree in business program or request more info here.

You can join inspiring students just like Lucina by applying to become a Campus Scholar today!

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