Cindy R. Escobedo’s college years have been, in many ways, shaped by her mother’s.When Cindy completed an undergraduate degree in political science at UCLA in 2015, she followed her mother, Cecilia, who had earned her bachelor’s degree at Azusa Pacific University a year earlier. In 2016 Cindy graduated with a master’s degree in education. Her mother caught up one year later, obtaining her master’s in nursing. And in 2021, the same year Cecilia’s doctorate in nursing practice was conferred, Cindy successfully defended her own dissertation and her degree was also conferred.On June 11, Cindy will walk at UCLA’s graduation in full doctoral regalia, and her novel dissertation — born of her own story — captures what it took to reach this milestone. Cindy chronicled the aspirations, challenges and joys of Latina mothers and daughters who pursued college degrees together.Cindy identified nine working-class mother-daughter families consisting of 22 women — all but three of whom attended college in California at the same time. Some are one mother, one daughter, while others are triads like the Escobedo women — Cecilia and daughters Cindy and Abigail. The mothers are largely immigrants — from Mexico, Peru, Belize, Guatemala — while all but one of the daughters U.S. born.But beneath the joy of achievement are complex journeys because for every mother who made sacrifices on the way to her degree, so too did her daughter.Advertisement
Cecilia Escobedo was a high school dropout before enrolling in Rio Hondo College’s nursing program. Since then, she earned a doctorate in nursing practice from Azusa Pacific University.(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times) For mothers, it meant balancing school nights and full-time jobs, straining to be there for family moments while succeeding as nontraditional students. For daughters, it meant caring for younger siblings while mom studied, becoming an extra pair of eyes on mom’s essays and explaining meetings with academic counselors while trying to flourish academically on their own. What distinguishes Cindy’s research is how she delves into an uncharted area, said Dolores Delgado Bernal, a professor at Cal State L.A. who served on her dissertation committee.She identified a collaborative and collective educational journey in which “educating oneself is educating the family,” Delgado Bernal said. The mother-daughter duos defy the stereotype of “higher education being hierarchical and being individualistic. It’s the opposite.”As Cindy writes in her dissertation: “This birth story is not crafted as a romanticized, feel-good tale about Chicana/Latina mother-daughter relationships. Rather, it is a complex narrative about Chicana/Latina mother-daughter struggle, resistance, love, and healing that transcends between generations of women who attended college individually and jointly.”From dropout to nursing student
When she was 27, Cecilia R. Escobedo was driving to work when she had a vision.She saw herself working in a hospital, stitching up a wound and caring for others. By then, Cecilia, a high school dropout, hadn’t been in a classroom for more than a decade. She and her husband, Gilbert, were working full time to raise their two daughters and two sons in South El Monte. She questioned whether she could handle it before attending Rio Hondo College in Whittier in 2000. She prayed to God to help care for her family.Before long, she enrolled in the nursing program. Cindy, the eldest daughter, remembers being 10 years old and joining her mother in the college library, doing homework or playing with 99 Cents Only coloring books as Cecilia pored over nursing textbooks and studied human anatomy.There were many sleepless nights, Cecilia, now 48, recalled. She often fell asleep on a desk or couch, too tired to slip into bed. Sometimes she woke up from an unscheduled nap at the library.What kept her going, she said, were thoughts of a better future for her family. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, she immigrated to the U.S. with her siblings and mother. But when her mother became injured and could no longer work, Cecilia dropped out of school to help pay bills. She was 16.
California Sent to the ‘Mexican school’ 75 years ago, Sylvia Mendez’s fight for equality continues April 14, 2022 “Something I learned about navigating the education system: We have to work 10 times harder, be 10 times smarter and sacrifice ourselves 10 times [more],” she said of Latinas. In 2018, about 26% of Latinas held a college degree, compared with 51% of white women. Still, one moment from her college career still carries the sting of guilt to this day. Cecilia would bring her youngest child, Abigail, to campus. During one tutoring session, Abigail asked to use the restroom at least three times. But Cecilia was on a roll, and her one-on-one session was limited.“Just hold tight,” she told Abigail.By the end of the session, when they were ready to leave, Cecilia looked down to find Abigail looking ashamed. She had wet herself.Afterward, Cecilia broke down in tears over the incident.“You’re going to school for a better life, and your daughter peed herself? I had to readjust and do it differently, ” she said.“In fact, all the motherscholars described feeling guilty for having dedicated a lot of time to their studies, as opposed to investing their energy in nurturing and being physically present for their families,” Cindy wrote in her dissertation. First-generation students — together
Cindy Escobedo checks on students during a writing exercise in her “Education in a Diverse Society” class at UC Riverside.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times) As a teenager, Cindy took on more responsibilities. At home she assigned chores, cooked meals and cleaned, duties that Abigail, six years younger, begrudgingly did, while their mom studied and their dad worked. Advertisement
“My sister was pretty much the head of the house,” Abigail said.Cindy, 29, reflecting on her role with her sister and mother, said it never felt like a burden.“We — me, my sister and my mom, and other Chicana Latinas — don’t operate as single individuals, just existing for themselves,” she said. “We have families to take care of. … In my case, the way that I care for myself is caring for my mom and my sister.”
Meet Josiah Johnson, the former UCLA benchwarmer who became an NBA meme king June 1, 2022 “I think it’s just loving,” Cecilia added. “You’re just loving. You love your family, you want to move forward. You extend yourself when somebody can’t.”The women, Cindy found, “traversed the terrains of motherhood, daughterhood and scholarhood” by being sure to care for themselves and one another. To keep going, Cindy, Abigail and Cecilia sent one another notes of affirmation, sometimes immortalized into bookmarks. “You can do this,” they would write back-and-forth. “I love you.”