March 24, 2016
By Troy Wilde
Yuma, AZ – Erika Garcia became a mother at 18. Four years later she is on the eve of graduating from the University of Arizona – Yuma with a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Human Development.
Some people could be side-tracked by becoming a parent at a young age, but Erika says her daughter Tyler motivated her, “I was pregnant the last three months of my senior year in high school. But to me – I don’t think that was an excuse to not continue my education because I’ve always just been a driven person and I always knew I wanted to go to school.”
Erika graduated from Cibola High School and went on to complete her associate’s degree at Arizona Western College (AWC) and expects to graduate with her bachelor’s this May. Erika is considering a career in teaching and also counseling. She currently works at a domestic violence shelter and will start a teaching job at St. Francis Catholic School later this year.
Erika also earned a scholarship totaling 24-thousand dollars over four years from College Success Arizona which helped ease the financial burden of paying for college, “Yes! Oh my goodness. I have no debt right now, actually. So it’s helped me more than I can even imagine.”
Along with the scholarship, College Success Arizona provides its students with mentors which are officially called Success Advisers. Erika says Matt Sotelo, her success adviser, has been very supportive, “He’s always been so genuinely caring and non-judgmental. He’s always helped if I’ve had any questions. He’s always proud of the accomplishments that I have. I know that he really cares, and he really does try for us and he just wants the best for us.”
Erika adds that her mother was also a powerful influence on her path toward college, “My mom was a single mother. She just worked really hard to provide for us. She didn’t go to college so I noticed that growing up she was always working. I realized that she was a hard worker and I wanted to be a hard worker as well, but I knew the struggle. I knew how hard it was for her and unfortunately she didn’t get the opportunity that I had.”
For high school students considering college, Erika says:
“Start right now looking up classes and looking up your plan. I know plans change but just try and have a set plan that you’re going to do. Take certain classes because you can always get degrees in different areas.”