Rebecca Peña never thought college was something she would do in her lifetime, let alone move thousands of miles from home to Lansing.
But because of the support she received from family, friends and a unique student services program at Lansing Community College, she did.
One of six children, Peña grew up in Mission, Texas, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley. Her father worked construction until he had an accident and couldn’t. Peña’s mother supported the family by taking care of elderly people and doing laundry.
Peña’s options were limited. She could go to a vocational school, but she wanted more. Graduating high school in 2012, she felt discouraged, but her parents pushed her to pursue her education.
"I listened to the advice they gave me," says Peña. "And after what I heard from my boyfriend, I knew I wanted to come up here and start college."
Peña’s boyfriend, Adrian Viera, had moved to Michigan to work alongside his migrant worker parents. He liked Michigan, he told her, and he especially liked the opportunities he found through LCC.
"He told me I should try it, too," Peña said of LCC. "I knew right away I would."
Peña moved to Michigan to be near Adrian and his parents. In August 2012, she became the first person in her family to attend college. She admits her first couple semesters weren’t easy, but she kept at it, taking remedial classes, seeking out academic advisers, and leveraging scholarships and support services like LUCERO—a program that assists Latino students in developing exceptional academic, leadership and professional skills.
Today, Peña is on track to transfer into the child development program at Michigan State University in 2016. She plans to earn her bachelor’s degree, enter the master’s program for speech pathology, and eventually work as a speech pathologist.
"I knew I wanted to be someone in life, and I knew in the long run it was best to keep trying harder," says Peña. "I’d tell anyone: Never give up on whatever it is you want to do."