From struggle to triumph
Eight years ago she couldn’t even speak English. This Spring, she is receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, with honors. But Maria Luevanos’ path to success wasn’t an easy one.
Her story begins almost twenty years ago when she and her husband first came to the United States from Durango, Mexico. They arrived to meet other family in Salinas, California, where they both joined them under the blistering sun where they spent their days picking tomatoes and pulling onions out of the ground. “I didn’t like it, it was so hot, so hard,” she said.
Luevanos’ life in the fields was short-lived, as she became pregnant soon after and left work due to complications with her pregnancy. But what was supposed to be one of the greatest joys in life became an almost year-long struggle with worry and despair. Her son Juan was born with a disability, and was hospitalized for months. Luevanos was by his side every day. “It was hard to think about him not coming home,” she said. “Sometimes I realized that I needed to face that possibility.”
Little Juan was released after eight months of being hospitalized, but his health problems were just beginning. “He had a lot of medical necessities: breathing tubes, feeding machines, surgeries. I didn’t go back to work because I needed to take care of him 24 hours a day,” said Luevanos.” That was their life for five years, while her husband continued to work in the fields seven days a week.
When her son started school, he was put into a special education program. Later school officials determined that due to the fact that his disability was physical, he would benefit more from being in a regular school. He was transferred and excelled in all subjects.
In 2005, the Luevanos family, including a second son born when Juan was 5, left Salinas and moved to Bakersfield with the dream of purchasing their first home. With her husband now working as a truck driver, and her sons both in school, Luevanos thought it was time for her to do something for herself. She decided to start by learning English, and she enrolled in classes at Bakersfield Adult School. Once she learned the language, she decided to continue her education by enrolling in the school’s GED program. “It was hard because there were different topics, and sometimes I got out of class and I didn’t understand anything because it was all in English with language I wasn’t used to,” she said. “But I always stayed after class and asked the teachers for help, and they helped me. They gave me courage to continue, so I did, and I reached my goal to get my diploma.”
Lueavnos didn’t stop there. She remembers visiting Bakersfield College with her classmates and being so impressed with the campus. So much, that as soon as she received her GED, she enrolled at BC. Three years later, she had an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts. So, what did she do next?
“The word ‘university’ scared me, it made me very nervous,” said Luevanos. “But I decided to transfer to a university because I earned it, and I applied and was accepted into the Public Administration program here at CSUB.”
Aside from the time spent in class, Luevanos would study at home up to five hours a day. She dedicated most of her time to schoolwork and completing assignments. Her hard work has paid off, as she will be receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration with honors. She was also recently inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. She is not done quite yet. “I applied and have been accepted into the Master of Public Administration program here at CSUB,” she said. “I’m ready to work, and give it 100% until I achieve my next degree.”
But she will not be graduating alone. Luevanos’ oldest son Juan graduated from High School this spring, and he will join her here at CSUB this upcoming Fall Quarter.
“I never thought that this would happen,” she said. “Doctors told me that he would not survive and now 18 years later, he’s graduating and has proven to be a great student and a great son.”
Luevanos also became a citizen of the United States two years ago. While citizenship and a college degree were far from what Luevanos said she hoped to accomplish when she arrived in the US almost twenty years ago, she is happy and proud of her accomplishments and hopes that her story of struggle and triumph will inspire others to work hard to achieve their goals. “Don’t say you will do it tomorrow, just do it now,” she said. “You can’t accomplish it just thinking about it, you have to act.”