Vagas With Degrees Series, is a series that highlights BIPOC womxn’s journey through higher education. Started in 2017, this series has featured over 200 fearless, strong and resilient women of color whom graduated and earned their Associates, Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees in different fields across the nation. Her Vaga Bound Roots is forever thankful and incredibly honored to serve as a platform to feature their inspiring stories every year. Click below to view each class year.
CLASS OF 2022
Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing
“Being raised in Pacoima, I have experienced first-hand the inequities, poverty, lack of resources, language barriers, and other stressors that have often led me to doubt my ability to be successful in higher education. Nevertheless, it has also been my roots that have allowed me to be resilient.
I initially pursued my first Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public Health as I became very passionate about helping individuals who were facing inequities in healthcare. Upon completing this, I began working as a health educator in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and became inspired to pursue an additional degree in nursing.
While in nursing school, I often saw myself running 36-48 hours with no sleep and making many sacrifices as I worked two jobs, attended classes, and made it to my clinical rotations. Coming from a low-income household, working was a necessity. Although there were times when I often felt like giving up, I reminded myself that If I had made it this far, I was capable of doing more. As I am now completing my BSN, I have realized that despite the adversity and hardships that I have faced, there are no limits to all the progress that I am able to make.
As I step into the role of an RN, I hope to improve the quality of care for underserved individuals. I also aim to give back to my community and empower BIPOC individuals to pursue higher education, as with enough determination, anything is possible!”
Masters of Social Work
University Of Southern California
“Many times throughout the journey to becoming a Master of Social Work, I wanted to give up. Working 60+ hours weekly as a Case Manager Supervisor for the Department of Children and Families, interning 20 + hours a week at a halfway house, and trying to maintain a straight A average was not easy. I had to sacrifice a lot of family time, friend time, and mental health in order to stay afloat. Oftentimes I had thoughts that “giving up would be much easier”, but that is where resilience persevered. It is then I knew “All things, good and bad, work together for the good of those who love the Lord”. I leaned on my faith, my family, and my friends to renew my strength and overcome the most challenging time in my life, thus far. I taught myself that with self discipline, perseverance, and support I can reach astronomical heights. I now get to look back and lavish in my accomplishments. I am now ready to serve the communities and people of this world at my greatest potential. I will never tire in doing what’s right for the world. I am truly Grateful."
Stephanie Yvette Delgado (She/Her/Ella)
Masters of Social Work
New York University - Silver School of Social Work
“As I become the first in my family to obtain a masters degree as well as, adding to the 4% of Latinas who hold a masters degrees in the U.S. This degree means so much to me. Although, I put in all the work and the sacrifices— Mi Papa y Mama have always been there every step of the way. With their Consejos that include “ El Estudio es Para ti y Nadien Mas y Nadie Te lo Puede Quitar”. It has pushed me to pursue my education, and continue to achieve my goals and dreams. The Sky is NOT the limit, as long as you have hopes you can achieve anything and don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise.”
Maria Garcia (She/Hers/Ella)
Bachelors in Social Work
“Hey y’all! Graduating with my bachelors is something I would’ve never imagined myself doing but here I am! I’m a transfer, non-traditional, first-gen student not to mention a mother to 3 handsome young boys. It’s definitely been a struggle. I started community college by taking a few classes here and there. I didn’t know to see a counselor to get help so I just took random classes. Eventually I started to find my way around campus and found the help I needed but then again life happened along with having babies and I would put a hold on my education. I finally graduated from Butte community college in 2018 being eight months pregnant. I took a few semesters off and thought to myself hey why don’t you apply for Chico state? So I did and to my surprise got accepted into the social worker program. This time I had a bit more experience and knew to look for help. I found the Adelante Wayfinders program and they assigned me a mentor which helped me so much not only in my studies but finding myself as well. Being a first generation college student has been so difficult but I would not change it for the world. I love being able to be the first to go to college and pave the path for future generations! To all my mamas out there or older students you CAN do anything you set your mind to and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
Jocelyn Veronica Aparicio (She/Her/Hers)
Master of Public Health
Grand Canyon University
“The completion of my Masters degree in Public Health from Grand Canyon University means resiliency and dedication. A 20 month program turned into a 48 month program and it was the most challenging experience yet. Oftentimes, I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I knew failure was not an option, because it couldn't be. Having that I am the daughter and the granddaughter of immigrants and a first generation Salvadoran woman this degree is an accomplishment of my community and the generation after me. Growing up I was told that in life you need to do two things to be happy. That was to work hard and love your work. I love Public Health and I love school, though this degree did not come easy; it is an example of my dedication to the field of Public Health. My Grandfather, Jose Alcides Aparicio, has been and continues to be my biggest inspiration. Most importantly this degree is dedicated to him. Although he's no longer here with me, I know that I have made him proud. And in his own words, "en la vida, siempre hay que superar". And that is what I will always do. Cheer to the Class of 2022!”
Lupe LLerenas (She/Her)
Masters of Science in Journalism
University of Southern California
“Papa, por favor! Don’t go!” I begged him crying as I reached for him. “I’ll see you soon, mija,” my father said. My mother pulled me into her arms, and I tightly held her, not knowing when we were going to see my father again. Seconds later, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers handcuffed my father and got him into the backseat of a white van. Before I could say goodbye, the van began driving out of my sight.
After months of watery eyes, I focused on school. I wasn’t a straight-A student but school gave me a sense of escape, where I fell in love with reading, writing, and storytelling. As I grew older, I realized they were a part of the art of journalism, and they welcomed my curiosity with open arms, preserving my interest in journalism. Obtaining my Master of Science in Journalism from USC Annenberg is allowing me to fulfill my dream of becoming a community journalist.
As I graduate with my master’s degree, I remember the sight of that white van driving away. However, instead of viewing the hardships I went through as moments of weakness, I see them now as defining moments of strength and inspiration. The next time my father sees my family and me, I won’t be begging him, “Papa, don’t go!” Instead, I will be the first in my family with a master’s degree saying “Papa, we did it!”
Mary Avilez (She/Her(s)/Ella)
Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy
Mount Saint Mary's University
“Achieving a Master’s Degree means more than anyone can imagine. I am not only celebrating that I am finishing graduate school. I am also celebrating my journey thus far and who I am today. At the age of 18, with no guidance or role models, I initiated my personal development journey to create a better future for myself and my family. Now, in my 30s, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology launches me further into the healthier future I have imagined.
I would not be where I am today if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone countless times and attended therapy to further my personal growth. I decided to become a Marriage and Family Therapist after witnessing my healing. I realized then that my therapy experience was helping me grow into the person I was meant to be to pursue my calling – a therapist, a guide, and a safe space for others to flourish. Throughout 10 years of therapy, I have cried, wiped my tears, recentered myself, reassessed, and pivoted countless times. Because of this, I continue to thrive despite my shortcomings. Each experience brings valuable lessons and information about myself.”