Cecilia Reyes graduated from high school in 2016, unsure of which direction to go next. So, she took a year off and began working, but always with the idea of continuing her education in some fashion.
“I had my daughter in 2017 and decided to come back to school for a better future,” Cecilia says.
She didn’t have to look far. Howard Community College is about 10 minutes from home and work. Still uncertain about which field to pursue, she initially looked into certificate programs for bookkeeping and nursing. The path became clearer after she was directed to HCC’s Ambiciones program for first-generation Hispanic/Latino students.
“Ambiciones means ‘ambitions’ in Spanish,” Cecilia says. “It helps you feel more comfortable being with someone who speaks your language. Even though you’re speaking English, it helps you out because that’s not my first language. They helped me choose the right classes, fill out the paperwork, find scholarships, all those types of things.”
With assistance from Ms. Sandy Cos, associate director of Ambiciones, Cecilia confirmed that she actually loved science and was curious about it. She decided to pursue an associate degree in general studies, with a focus on biology.
“I always liked science since high school, but I never had the courage to take the classes that could help me out,” she says. “When I saw the programs at HCC, I was really interested in just getting a certificate for LPN. But I figured I should get an associate degree and then transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor’s in biology.”
Now she aims to work as a physician’s assistant or in pharmaceutics after completing her studies. HCC not only assisted in fine-tuning her vision, but it has provided crucial flexibility, too. Beginning as a part-time student, Cecilia eventually progressed to sometimes taking morning and evening classes wrapped around her work schedule.
Her successful journey helped persuade a sister-in-law to attend HCC. “I told her it’s better to go through Howard, get her general studies degree, and then transfer to a four-year university,” Cecilia says. “She’s going to save a lot of money and gain more experience.
“Since it’s a community college, classes are quite smaller and you’re able to ask more questions. And the professors are able to give you more.”
Between her studies and the Ambiciones program, Cecilia has gained more than she ever imagined.