2021 Sam Lieberman Regents' Award for Student Scholarship recipient Imelda Gonzalez Ojeda has always wanted to be a teacher and that’s what brought her to TMCC as a Summer Bridge student two years ago. In May, she will receive her dual degrees in Elementary Education and Human Development and Family Studies. “I've actually always wanted to be a teacher, and always just had a passion for learning,” she said. “I want to be that person who can provide that happy place for students where they feel accepted and they can accept themselves. And then I chose to study Human Development because that gives me a background on the different stages in life, different family systems and how the environment can affect how students behave.”
Originally from Reno, Ojeda immediately took to the academic environment at TMCC where she felt both supported and challenged. Her favorite class, EPY, helped her to build the skills she would need for her academic and professional journey. “That class was very helpful, because it enabled me to develop my communication skills, time management, and it also helped me to open up because of the journaling activities,” she said, explaining that learning, developing and honing these skills provided her with the motivation she needed to keep going.
Her best moment at TMCC, however, didn’t happen in a classroom. “When I was hired to be a student-worker at the Recruitment and Access Center really opened up a lot of doors for me. I got to network and meet a lot of students who all had very different backgrounds," she said.
After graduating from TMCC with her associate degrees, Ojeda plans on continuing her education and dual-degree focus at UNR with the end goal of leading a classroom for Kindergarten, first or second-grade students. “I have actually volunteered to mentor [that age group] before, so I know they are always so fun to be around,” she said.
Like many of our graduates this year, Ojeda overcame an unprecedented challenge when her classes were moved to online formats in Spring 2020. This was especially challenging for her Chemistry class. Not a student to give up when faced with a challenge, though, Ojeda reached out to the Tutoring and Learning Center. She also increased the amount of time she studied for her exams.
And yet, the pandemic offered Ojeda a more personal challenge: as a student who thrives in classrooms, libraries, college corridors, and academic spaces because they feel safe, the lack of them was difficult to take during the shutdowns.
“School has always been my happy place. When I am on campus, I am able to focus on what is in front of me,” she said. When TMCC moved to remote operations in March 2020, Ojeda struggled with the loss of her favorite place. Being at home all the time forced her to come face-to-face with the challenges at home.
“I was left to actually think about the struggles I faced,” she said. These struggles included the loss of two family members; and then, her father was hospitalized and lost his vision. “School was just like really a place for me to go and focus on academics instead of problems. Being at home, I actually had to process everything that had happened.”
Yet, Ojeda reached out to her instructors, who provided her with resources and support. “They were amazing,” she said.
My Grad Story: Amazing
When asked what word would describe her personal and academic journey at TMCC, Ojeda chose the word “amazing.”
“I met amazing people at TMCC. Amazing coworkers, amazing staff, amazing professors, and it's just been such a great time here at TMCC,” she said. To students who face their own challenges, she advises them to just keep going.
“Keep pushing forward, even if you experience challenges,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how long your journey takes. You can take as much time as you need. You should always do what you want to do because this is your life and your career… and be proud of yourself because you are overcoming your challenges.”
My Grad Story Series
In this series of stories, we celebrate students who are achieving their degrees and dreams despite the challenges offered by the ongoing pandemic. Starting the week of April 12, the college will share one story each week up until commencement from its inspiring classes of 2020 and 2021.
This series also includes a video interview with participants on our YouTube Channel. Join us in celebrating these incredible stories and graduates as we count down the weeks to our drive-through commencement ceremony that is happening May 17–21.