Like many first-generation college Latinx students, Priscila González struggled through her freshman and sophomore years at Chicago State University. She struggled with managing time, learning how to advocate for herself in campus and meeting deadlines. After completing her sophomore year, Priscila left school to work for a while. She felt that she needed a break and time to figure out what she wanted to do with herself.
During her junior year, Priscila worked full time with Catholic Charities, leading a girls’ reflection group in Back of the Yards, and attended college part time. Friends in the community encouraged her to apply for the Peace and Education Coalition (PEC) scholarship for the first time, which helped pay for books that year.
But it was her senior year that was the most challenging. She found out she was pregnant with her first child, but she continued to go to school. During her teaching practicum, she learned she was dealing with a high-risk pregnancy and possible spina bifida in her firstborn.
She knew that leaving school so close to the end of senior year was controversial, but she decided to quit school again. Her responsibility to make her doctor’s appointments was more important for the well-being of her unborn child.
This year, Priscila used her PEC scholarship to help sustain her household. The financial and emotional strain made this the hardest time ever in her life. After taking time off from school, she had her first-born, Isabella. The following year, Natalie arrived.
Taking a Third Try at College, For Her Daughters
After the babies came, Priscila took time to reflect. It was definitely time for her to go back to school, set the example for her daughters and make her own parents proud. Within Natalie’s first year of life, Priscila resumed her studies for the third time.
She completed her student teaching and graduated in May 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education.
Today, she is the school clerk at the Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School, where she helps young people get back on track, finish high school and prepare for their next steps.
Priscila continues to set an example for her children. With tears in her eyes, she told me, “I fought through hard times for them. I want them to know they come from a family of strong women that persevere. They carry that resiliency in them.” Her advice to her daughters is simple: “to always do their best and accept any challenges that come their way.”
She credits her parents for her work ethic and respect for people from all walks of life and levels of education. Education opens opportunities, but it does not define you. Priscila knows plenty of people who have not been taught in formal institutions and have much to offer their community. Her father did not attend school past the second grade, but his work ethic provided her with security, opportunities and plenty of support throughout her tough time. She is proud and thankful.
Since her college years, Priscila has been part of creating opportunities and safe spaces in the neighborhood. She is one of the co-founders of the Dia de Los Muertos Celebration and Bike Procession in the Back of the Yards and co-founder of Amor Al Arte, through which community residents promote art and culture by leading pop-up art workshops for women and children.