Last Friday on May 4th2018 I graduated from Vanguard University with my Bachelors of Arts degree in Religion with an emphasis in ministry and leadership! (Try saying that three times real fast!) It was one of the proudest and unreal days of my life! To some a Bachelor’s degree might not be a big deal, but to me and my family it meant the world. It was something I always wanted to achieve but if I am honest with you- I never thought I would. School is something that has never been easy for me. It was always full of challenges and obstacles. I remember going through testing when I was in elementary school to see if I was dyslexic only to find out I was just a bad speller. I was the girl who was a freshmen in high school with a third grade reading level. I had to take a regular English class in addition to a reading comprehension course just to catch up to my peers. Thankfully, however, by the time I graduated high school my reading level was where it needed to be.
I have always had to work harder than those around me. I would have to re-read things over and over just to understand and I would have to study for countless hours so that I could retain the information I needed for a test. School was so hard for me from the beginning but I loved school. I loved learning and exploring new concepts. I loved class discussions and being able to have a voice in the classroom. Even though school was tough, I knew in my heart I wanted to pursue my education as much as possible. I graduated from Nogales High school in La Puente California in 2003. I then went on to LABI College (also known as Latin American Bible Institute). I completed three years at LABI and graduated with an Associate’s degree in Bible and ministry in 2006. Those three years were among the best years of my life! They were challenging, but I was so passionate about getting prepared for the calling God had in my life.
After LABI I transferred to Vanguard University to obtain Bachelor’s degree. I started in the fall of 2006 and man, was it a journey. I walked onto the campus full of confidence but was quickly met by my insecurities and the reminder that school was a challenge for me. Now, you may be thinking “2006? Wait, but it is 2018?” Let me help you. I started at Vanguard in 2006 and graduated in 2018. Yep! It took me 13 years to finish. But did you hear that last part? I finished! And let me tell you, a lot happened in those 13 years…. I was challenged by the difficulties of learning, I was a youth pastor, I had financial aid issues, I had personal issues, and I became a campus pastor. So, it is safe to say I encountered many different things and various challenges. I often felt like it was hurdle after hurdle that I was jumping over and pushing through just to get to the next class and finish. I had to stop and go so many times that I never thought I was going to finish. When I finally got near the end it was hard for me to comprehend that I was actually approaching the finish line. I had been in this race for my education for so many years and I never thought I would finally see the finish line. For so long the hurdles blocked my view and I even forgot to think about what was waiting for me at the end.
Part of me was so embarrassed and ashamed that it took me this long. Insecurities wanted to rob me of my victory but I felt God’s voice speak to me so lovingly. “In this race you have gone at your own pace and now you are at the finish line!”
I went at my pace taking classes and pursuing ministry. I went at my pace when dealing with personal challenges. I went at my pace but I was never alone in the race. The Lord my God was always with me! Always cheering for me, always pushing me, always believing in me, and never giving up on me! I ran the race at my pace and I got to see the finish line. Up until the day of graduation I felt like a part of me was always waiting for something to happen that would stop me from graduating yet again. I was waiting for a call that I said I had a pending balance or that they made a mistake and I needed another class. I had gotten so use to the hurdles but it was time to get ready for the victory! Graduation was like a dream come true!
Having my family, friends, and mentors there meant the world to me! As I was standing in line waiting for my name to be called all these emotions ran through me. I was finally able to tell myself you did it!! That elementary school girl who couldn’t spell had overcome! That high school girl trying to raise her reading comprehension, she did it! That young woman trying to find herself, her ministry and her calling, she did! I did it! They called my name and I smiled from ear to ear! The finish line was so sweet and a better rush then I could describe.
I am grateful for my parents who always believed in me. Who always told me I was capable even when I thought I wasn’t. I am grateful for my boss Dr. Marty Harris who took a chance on me before I crossed the finish line. I am thankful to the Miranda family who prayed for me and made a way for me. I am thankful to my Faro family who journeyed with me, took a chance on me, and helped formed me. My mentors like Pastor Steve Pinto who is always giving me something to look up to and strive for. I am thankful for friends who have become family like the Bess family and the Guzman family. I am thankful for my auntie Maryann who is always ready and willing to celebrate me. I am thankful to my auntie Flora and auntie Josie who prayed prayers that carried me. I know my Auntie Flora was watching from heaven with my grandma and grandpa and all my aunties and uncles. I am thankful to each and everyone one of my friends, family, and students for loving me and for cheering for me.
God is so good and he has been so good to me. My race was hard and my race was long but God was faithful and He gave me the ability to finish what I started. If I could do it than you can do it! Don’t give up! You might be going at your own pace but don’t give up on the race!
As for me, it’s time to start a new race! Master’s Degree, here I come!!