STC student and mother of three receives national scholarship
South Texas College Operations Management student Olga Navarro was recently awarded one of only three Community College Baccalaureate Association scholarships during the organization’s national conference in Palm Springs, California.
Pictured: (left to right) Community College Baccalaureate Association Board Member and President of Weatherford College Dr. Tod Allen Farmer, STC Operations Management student Olga Navarro and Community College Baccalaureate Association Board Vice Chair and STC Dean of the Division of Math, Science and Bachelor Programs Dr. Ali Esmaeili.
South Texas College student Olga Navarro’s family came from Mexico to the United States more than 30 years ago to give their children a chance at a better education and life, but when Navarro realized she was being held back from realizing the “American Dream,” she broke a generational cycle to become the first STC student to receive one of three Community College Baccalaureate Association scholarships.
The Community College Baccalaureate Association is the nation’s only organization dedicated to promoting baccalaureate degrees on community college campuses as a means of closing racial, ethnic and economic gaps. The organization’s Scholars Fund supports the recognition of academic excellence toward a baccalaureate degree awarded by a community college and is funded by the CCBA Board of Directors.
“I could not believe I had been chosen. When I got the email, I thought it was a spam message, until the calls from my instructors started coming in,” said the 34-year-old. “I was so excited, it was unexpected. Out of so many students, thousands probably, I had been chosen. It was God-sent.”
Up until she received the $1,000 scholarship, Navarro said she didn’t know how she was going to pay for her summer semester, a crucial semester that determines whether she will earn her bachelor’s degree in Operations Management this year.
“Had I not received this scholarship, I would not be graduating in December,” said Navarro. “I’m so grateful and thankful to the CCBA (Community College Baccalaureate Association) and to the instructors who encouraged us to apply. And to be able to attend their national conference was invaluable for my confidence and my motivation.”
Navarro joined STC faculty and the two other scholarship recipients recently for the Community College Baccalaureate Association national conference in Palm Springs, California to receive her award.
She said she believes it was her recommendation letter and essay that summarized her family’s struggles when it came to pursuing an education that helped her earn her award.
At only 17, the California native, now Texas transplant, had her first baby, and with no family in the Rio Grande Valley, school took a back seat.
“I didn’t just trust anyone with my baby, so finding child care was expensive and it was difficult finding people to help me,” she said. “Then my family kept growing, so it was difficult to go back.”
Not only did Navarro have a family to support financially, but she said she also didn’t have the support system she needed to go back to school.
Ultimately, this journey has been about finding myself, my way in this world and about being a positive role model for my children, especially my daughters, with their support and a college that gives its students all resources necessary to succeed, I’m well on my way to realizing that American Dream. STC has facilitated my goals…I’m on my way
“In the Mexican or Hispanic culture, sometimes women aren’t encouraged to pursue an education. We are told that a man will take care of us…that our husbands should take care of us,” said Navarro. “And, I fell into that. I was told I couldn’t go to school because it was going to mean less attention for my partner at the time.”
Reflecting on her childhood, Navarro said her parents always encouraged an education, especially because her father didn’t study past the second grade and her mother stopped going to school in the sixth grade because her grandpa didn’t want her around boys.
“It’s that mentality that hurt my mother…she’s so smart, loves math and I know she always wished she had gotten an education, so this is for her,” said Navarro. “I couldn’t let her down, I couldn’t let my dad down, or even my kids. If any cycle was going to be broken, it was going to be up to me.”
Navarro eventually cut ties with her former partner and started finding a way back into the classroom. She said there was nowhere to go but forward, especially after feeling embarrassed when she couldn’t answer some of her son’s college questions about her degree or major.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I had worked call centers previously as a customer service representative and closely watched how operations were managed and I knew this could be my future career: managing, so Operations Management called my name,” said Navarro. “Now, STC has helped me create a path that will guide me toward fulfilling my goal.”
Navarro’s goal is to manage a call center and one day open her own to help small businesses, which she already does as a part-time remote consultant for world-wide small business owners as an administrative assistant, marketer and even bookkeeper; these are only a few of her titles.
“Ultimately, this journey has been about finding myself, my way in this world and about being a positive role model for my children, especially my daughters, she said. “And with their support a now supportive husband and a college that gives its students all resources necessary to succeed, I’m well on my way to realizing that American Dream.”
Navarro already holds an associate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from STC and said her life has already changed because her childhood dream of being a college graduate has already been realized.
“STC has facilitated my goals…I’m on my way,” she said.
For more information on one of five bachelor’s degrees offered at STC, visit bachelors.southtexascollege.edu.