January 22, 2016 (Translation Credit: Leyla Arenas, Lydia Casillas)
A professor is looking to inspire her students to continue with their studies toward a doctorate. Many Latinos students believe getting a high school diploma is the highest level of their academic achievement but a professor demonstrates that it is possible to aspire for more despite life’s challenges. Professor Rebecca Romo leads by example: the daughter of a farmworker who raised seven children while seeking government assistance, facing hunger as a child, then becoming a single mother at 19, attending college while working in multiple part-time jobs, was finally able to earn a doctorate. “We are the future as Latinos, and if we don’t educate ourselves or others, then who else will do it for us? We should invest in our education and in our community, this is why it is important to pursue a higher level of education, beyond a high school diploma”, she says. Romo, who is 33 years old, often conveys these words to her Hispanic students at Santa Monica College, where she works as a professor since 2014. She has had immediate positive reactions.
An example to follow
Romo, having earned a doctorate in Sociology, focuses her first class meeting on her life story, which is so similar to her students listening from their desks. Her goal is to inspire them, from that day forward. “I want my students to see me as I saw my mentor (a teacher who was a farmworker from childhood through university graduation), and to know that if they are poor as I was, or if they have immigrant parents, or they are immigrants themselves; they should know that they can succeed,” she declares. Romo was raised in Sacramento with six siblings. Her father, an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, who was destitute before working as a farmworker, was forced to seek government assistance to feed his children. Food became scarce at the end of the month. “Sometimes we could only afford to eat quesadillas”, she tells.
At 19 years old, as a freshman student attending California State University Sacramento, Romo became pregnant and was soon a single mother. Taking advantage of support programs including university childcare services, social assistance, and working in various part-time jobs, Romo was able to earn a bachelor’s degree. Later on, she earned a master’s and a doctorate at University of California, Santa Barbara. She also taught at Occidental College and Pasadena City College. Since her arrival at SMC, reaching out to social and economic disadvantaged students has been her top priority. “At times, many students don’t believe in themselves and that higher education is also a place for them”, Romo says, while explaining that only 1% of Americans have a doctorate and of these only a very small portion are Latinos.
I have planted that seed, for some of my students, Romo states, of wanting to continue with higher education. “They tell me: after taking your class, I have been inspired to also pursue a doctorate”
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