My Journey to a College Education.
By Bibiana Ojeda.
President, Student Veterans Association
The University of Texas at Dallas
I am a first-generation American, veteran, and college student. My father first came to the United States from Mexico in 1976. Just like any other immigrant family, my parents came to the U.S. with hope. And even though we didn’t grow up with much, my parents were able to teach my siblings and I various intangible lessons such as the value of hard work and perseverance.
I grew up in a small-town East of Dallas, TX. I first started school when I was three years old through the local head-start program, and I have been passionate about learning since. I graduated from high school in 2011, where I finished within the top 15 percent of my class. I was an honor graduate, and a member of my high school’s National Honor Society chapter. I had plans to attend a 4-year university, but that was until I saw the dollar amount of a college degree.
Growing up I never pictured myself joining the Air Force, but it was the best decision I could have made for myself, and I knew that my efforts would pay off in the long run. I enlisted because I wanted to be a part of something big, and I wanted to live a life I could be proud of 30-50 years down the road.
I served a 4-year active duty enlistment with the Air Force. I spent most of my enlistment at Barksdale, AFB where I worked for the 20th Bomb Squadron. The 20th is a B-52 Flying Squadron, and my role within my unit was Command Support Staff. I was primarily in charge of our personnel evaluations and awards. I really enjoyed the people I was surrounded by in my unit. They were like a second family to me and were nothing but supportive when I decided I wasn’t going to reenlist.
The thought of going back to college was both exciting and terrifying. I did take some courses throughout my enlistment, but due to my work-life balance, I could only manage one class per semester. I came back home to Texas and started attending The University of Texas at Dallas. Not knowing anyone at my school, I instantly became familiar with the Military and Veterans Center, where I was able to connect with other student veterans who were like me.
Being a non-traditional student on campus can be challenging. You’re a minority and it can be difficult trying to communicate with professors who are used to tailoring their lectures towards traditional students. As a result, I have served on a committee along with UTD staff who are committed to improving campus life for student veterans.
My stride to success is one that has taken many routes. If there’s anything I want to get across to the reader, is that it’s okay to take detours at times! I always knew I wanted to go to college, but I never wanted to be a financial burden to my family. I’m still on track to where I want to go, I’m just older and wiser.
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