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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Student Pushes Through Without Financial Aid

February 19, 2013

Barbara SousaTwo things threatened Barbara Sousa’s dream to enroll at SJVC in Hanford: she didn’t have a ‘green card’ and she had only begun to learn English four years earlier as a high school sophomore. And, without a Permanent Resident card, Barbara would not qualify for Financial Aid or student loans. She was crushed – but not deterred.

Barbara Sousa and her parents, Joao and Albertina, came to the U.S. from Portugal in 2007 with the hope of a better life. Her dad began work at a local dairy and Barbara was thrust into a school with classmates and a language she didn’t know. She cried every day and begged her parents to take her back to the familiarity of her home country.  “They just kept telling me that my tears would be worth it,” says Barbara. As she began to learn English, make new friends and earn good grades in school, she started to believe them.

Encouraged by her success in high school, Barbara wanted to go to the next level. “I analyzed my options and realized that I wanted something fast, where I could get in, get out and get ahead,” she says. She found the school of her dreams to be SJVC. However, during the enrollment process she found that, without a Permanent Resident card or I.D. she could not become a student. Heartbroken, she stepped back to plan a new course of action.

Armed with renewed determination and the immigration process in full motion, Barbara was accepted into the Administrative Health Care Management program. Over the course of her AHCM program she excelled academically, earning a 4.0 GPA, Perfect Attendance and Dean’s List awards and was a National Technical Honor Society member. She also earned her Permanent Resident status from the INS.

But all of this success did not come easily to Barbara. Without Financial Aid, the financial burden on her and her family was considerable. Barbara worked as a house and office cleaner, babysitter, helper on the dairy and was one of Santa’s elves during the Christmas holiday to contribute everything she could to what her parents paid each month. “There are really no words to describe how much I appreciate them and what they’ve done for me,” says Barbara.

Barbara’s parents are her motivation to push herself to succeed. “I saw how hard it is for my parents to get what they have,” she says. Her parents, with only an elementary school education, knew that their daughter’s future depended on her education. Barbara is the first to graduate high school and earn a college degree in her immediate family.

Not surprisingly, Barbara was asked to speak at her graduation ceremony last October. Her voice was an inspiration when she said, “Things can get tough to the point that you feel like giving up. But always remember, when one door closes, two more will open.”

“I believe that God has a plan for all of us,” says Barbara. “And, I’m taking advantage of everything He has given me.”


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