Daisy Villa began her first year in college at TMCC in Fall 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her high school classes had been moved to remote instruction the semester before. Villa chose TMCC because of its smaller class sizes and because it was “closer to home.”
“I chose TMCC because it felt more like a close-knit community. When I visited other universities, I felt like I could get lost in the sea of students there. But, at TMCC the classes were smaller, and I liked being able to connect with my professors,” she said.
Yet, when Villa began all of her classes were offered exclusively online. “That’s when I learned I am not an effective online learner,” she said. Like many students that semester, Villa struggled with staying focused on classes while she learned online and from home. Her most challenging moment came when she discovered that she had failed a class during that first semester.
“I remember thinking that the world was over and that everything was ending,” she said. “But I quickly learned that even if you fail a class, it’s not the end of your academic journey. You can pick yourself up and continue... you just have to try again.”
Getting Support and Pushing Through Challenges
In addition to starting her college career during the unknown of the COVID-19 pandemic, Villa also faced another considerable challenge: she is a first-generation college student. While her parents are supportive of her decision to pursue degrees in higher education, learning how to navigate not only the academic course load but the administrative tasks associated with being successful in college has fallen to Villa to find out on her own.
“Going into college, I knew nothing about the college experience, so it was scary at first. I had to do my FAFSA and other scholarship applications myself,” she explained. “My parents, of course, support my decision and they are always there for me. But it’s hard when I can’t go to them for advice. Instead, I’ve had to go to teachers, to friends who have some experience to help me in this process. And even now, transitioning from community college to university is going to be another challenge with a whole new set of expectations.”
Yet, Villa has not been alone on her journey: as a part of TMCC’s TRIO Student Support Services Program, Villa is a part of a community with targeted support and services for first-generation college students. She has been a hands-on member of the TRIO team, helping to organize and facilitate workshops and events. She is also a TRIO Peer Mentor, who tutors other students in science and English classes.
One project that stands out to Villa was a workshop she helped to plan called “Comfort and Tea” which offered a space for TRIO students, TRIO mentors and staff to connect. “Basically it was an opportunity for us to get to know each other,” she said. “A lot of times we don’t always see all the students in the TRIO Program, and so it was a great opportunity to hear about struggles other students face,” she said. “That was a really good experience because that helped me to feel like I’m not alone.”
A Love of Science and STEM
On May 20, Villa will cross the commencement stage to earn her associate of science degree. She envisions herself conducting pharmaceutical research and, one day, becoming a pharmacist. A lifelong lover of science, this educational and professional path answers Villa’s passion for solving puzzles.
“What really drew me to science is how it is like solving a puzzle... having a hypothesis and testing it out. It’s another way for you to figure out the world—the natural world especially,” she said. Following her graduation from TMCC, Villa plans on continuing her journey at UNR.
Before that, though, Villa is most looking forward to receiving her degree from TMCC. “It will be a moment of triumph for me,” she said. “All that I’ve gone through, and all of my hard work is finally paying off. And it’s a moment of celebration for my family as well—they have given a lot up for me so that I can attend college.”
Priceless Experiences, Priceless Advice
Villa calls her journey to commencement “priceless” for experiences that she values beyond measure.
“This is where I became a part of a family with the TRIO program, and what it is like to be in a close-knit community, which is something I will definitely miss. Most of my favorite memories happened at TMCC,” she said.
To students who are still in pursuit of their dreams and goals, Villa said it’s important not to be afraid of failing. “One thing I have experienced is that you win when you pick yourself up. There are many times when I’ve wanted to give up and not complete my degree, but I persisted and now I’m here. No matter what, it's important to just keep going,” she said.
Villa plans to do exactly that: with six more years of education before her to work in pharmacological research, she knows she is at the beginning of a long journey that will invite her to overcome many challenges. Yet, she’s ready for it.
“It’s important to have hope for the future and always have your goals and dreams in mind. Sometimes you might need that extra motivation. It’s also very important to have a good support system of friends and family because there will be hard times... but know, that there is always someone out there that will support you. For me, I truly found my family at TRIO.”
Celebrating the Class of 2022: My Grad Story
Every year, the TMCC celebrates our graduates through a multi-platform campaign that tells the stories of our students’ journeys to the commencement stage. However, members of the class of 2022 will have a unique experience of having their academic and personal lives altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our graduates embody diversity in every imaginable way, and in these series of stories, we will celebrate their journey to the commencement stage and beyond. This is one part of a multi-story series we will continue to run through May.