When asked to think about the average Trinity student, one might picture a young adult taking several classes and participating in many organizations. This idea, however, isn’t applicable to some of the nontraditional students attending Trinity, like Jessica Cortez a Spanish major and education minor, who will be entering the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program after she graduates in May. She returned to school after recognizing the benefits of a college degree while trying to support her family.
“I was working two jobs to support two kids, and was never really given the opportunity to move up because I didn’t have a degree. I decided to go back to school and started going to San Antonio College at the Northeast Lakeview campus,” said Cortez.
Cortez isn’t alone; Jennifer Noriega-Steers, a junior mathematical finance and economics double major, returned to Trinity after giving birth to her son, Oliver, last November.
“Due to pregnancy complications, I was forced to take off one semester. Luckily, Trinity has been gracious enough to allow temporary withdrawal and gave me some extended deadlines on courses during my health-induced leave,” she said.
Noriega-Steers was already familiar with Trinity, but for those who aren’t, returning to school can be nerve-wrecking.
“I felt as though Trinity students were light-years ahead of me, academically speaking. The classroom setting was foreign to me, and I thought that taking on the role of a student again was going to be difficult,” said Leticia Argueta, a sociology major. “However, the students and professors were so kind and welcoming, which made the transition process much easier. They made me feel as if I had a special place in the class.”
Cortez went through the same anxiety about starting classes again, but found the people at Trinity to be supportive and helpful.
“It was hard at first. I’m a really shy person, so being out of school for so many years and coming back to school with students who are mostly half your age is kind of intimidating. Dr. Tynes helped me and arranged for me to meet with another staff member who is also taking classes so that I could have a kind of support group once a month. We talked about issues, how school was going, our families, so that was one way that I could make friends.”
Argueta also thinks the support of the Trinity community has made her return easier.
“Time can be a bit of a stretch, as I have to juggle school, taking care of my family and working,” said Argueta. “My professors were flexible and worked with me to meet deadlines. Some even matched me with students who could help with assignments. Their concerted effort to work with my schedule in order to see me excel has meant the world to me.”
Noriega-Steers is thankful for the support of her family while she pursues her degree.
“Now that I’m back at Trinity, I’m loving every second, even if it is much more difficult with my three-month-old son. But I wouldn’t change it for the world; I’m much more driven now. I wouldn’t be able to be as productive as I am without the loving help from my parents and husband though,” said Noriega-Steers.
As she prepares for graduation, Cortez has used her story to motivate struggling students who may be considering taking some time off of school.
“Whenever I have the chance, I will tell students to never give up on school. Sometimes they talk about taking a year off; I tell them to just keep going. I use my experience to tell others to not give up or take a break and to take advantage of the opportunities they have,” said Cortez.