Maribel Gomez-Aguilar When Big Bend Community College brought distance learning to Mattawa in 2000, it transformed the life of Maribel Gomez-Aguilar.
Gomez-Aguilar had hopes of returning to school, but she lived 70 miles from campus. Once she gained access to college, she didn’t let up. It took six years to finish an associate’s degree and bachelor’s degree (mostly) online while raising three children and working full time.
The oldest child of migrant farmworkers, Gomez-Aguilar had her first child before graduating from high school. Her first job outside of field work was an entry-level position for BBCC’s Even Start program.
“I could barely answer the telephone I was so shy and afraid,” she said.
College staff encouraged her to seek more education. When interactive television classes arrived in Mattawa, she was the first one to register.
College students taking online classes need the discipline to motivate themselves to complete assignments on time and have good communication with the instructors.
“I was nervous going back to school because I was an average student who didn’t earn good grades,” she said. “I was lucky to have the best tutors to help me. I was able to get face-to-face help in addition to online tutors from Big Bend.”
Gomez-Aguilar was encouraged to apply for scholarships offered by the BBCC Foundation, and she was able to check out books for classes she was taking.
“Big Bend changed my life because after completing my required courses, I was able to transfer to a university. I received help from Big Bend staff that guided me through the process,” she said.
Gomez-Aguilar earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Studies. She has a great job in Mattawa with Inspire, and a secure future. “I have learned that education is an investment for a better life,” she said.
“There were many times I wanted to drop out of college, but I needed to set an example for my kids,” she said. “Now my kids are more eager to attend school and become something in life.”
Aguilar says she was inspired by Terry Kinzel (a mentor and BBCC Title V Coordinator) because “she inspired me to pursue something I thought I would never do.”
Now it is Gomez-Aguilar inspiring others in Mattawa, encouraging people in her community and workplace to transform their lives through higher education.