PACE Scholar, Jennifer Contreras is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). Her degree supports her dream to be a counselor that will enable her to work with “students to stay on track at school or to work in the criminal justice field.”
“Coming from a Hispanic family and going to a four year University is a big accomplishment.” In the Contreras family home, it was normal for Jennifer and her mom to do all the cleaning, cooking, and washing. As the only and first girl in the family to go to college, there was no precedence for attending college and maintaining her traditional female role in her home. At CSUSM Jennifer is a full-time student, working a part time job, and expected to continue her household duties.
When she decided to put aside her house duties for a while, her parents began to question her change. “I let them know that I had to balance my schedule more, which meant everyone had to do their own part in the house not just me and my mom.” While it caused some tension in the house, ultimately her family was able to understand her perspective and how having the pressure of the Hispanic culture can affect her education. “While it was really overwhelming, it fostered in me a new skill: time management.”
“My older brother Alejandro Contreras also inspired me to go to college because he was heading in the right direction and I wanted to follow his footsteps. When thinking about my future, I came to realize I wouldn’t have the ability to help others if I stayed in a minimum wage job for the rest of my life and education was the answer.”
Jennifer’s advice to high school students in San Marcos today: “Don’t give up. Take advantage of every opportunity. Always challenge yourself in your life because taking the easy way out will never lead to success. There are many opportunities out in world, have fun and enjoy the experiences. You are the only one who can determine how far you want to go in life.”