Maria Esme​ral​da Espinoza

ASI Executive Vice Presiden​t
​Child Adolescents and Family Studies Major, Fourth Year
California State University, Bakersfield

What will it mean to become the first of your family to earn a degree?
Becoming the first person in my family to attend college and earn a degree means that I am able to break the cycle and do better for myself and my family. Coming from a Hispanic household, family is very important. My parents have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for me to be able to have this opportunity, so earning this degree would make all their work worth it. No one in my family has ever attended college and created a career. Being the first one to earn a degree means I get to set an example for my siblings and inspire them to attend college. It means I will be able to have a career I like instead of a job I applied to just because I needed it. It makes me so proud knowing I will be able to help my family. Earning a degree symbolizes that immigrants can make this country better. I entered elementary school as a child of immigrants, not knowing any English and was able to get this far.

What has been the most challenging aspect?
Getting the process started and dealing with imposter syndrome. Although my parents have always supported and encouraged me to pursue higher education, they were even more clueless than I was, so I wasn’t able to go to them for help. I even took a year off between high school and my freshmen year because I didn’t think I was capable of getting into college. And if I would get accepted, I was sure I was going to drop out.

It took a lot of determination and dedication for me to enroll at CSUB. I always felt like I was filling out the forms incorrectly. When I received my acceptance letter, I was excited and worried at the same time because I didn’t tell my parents I applied to a school two hours away. When I gave them the news, my dad had no idea how we were going to pay for housing, food and my textbooks.

After a while, I was finally able to convince him. We were all scared but we are all so happy we took the risk. I was able to help my sister enroll at CSUB as well, and now we are both students here.

How have you become a leader in your community?
I have become a leader because of all the information and confidence I gained. I know what it’s like to be clueless, to not have someone to help you and to not speak the language. But now I have learned so much, and I am confident in myself to be able to help those who are in the position I once was.

Student leadership positions have really helped me create a platform on campus where students feel comfortable enough to reach out and ask for my help.