The road hasn’t been easy for Elva Villanueva. Born in Jalisco, Mexico, she immigrated to the U.S. in 1998. A few years ago, she and her husband divorced, leaving her with four children to raise on her own. Struggling to provide for her family, working multiple part-time jobs with no benefits, and no spousal support, she decided her only path to a better life was through education.
She heard that Centralia College had programs and resources for displaced homemakers to help them earn certificates and degrees, but, with no high school diploma, she knew it would be a difficult road. The first step was working with Joni Meister in the college’s Workforce Education program and earning her GED. Though it hasn’t been easy, she’s never looked back.
Early on, Elva realized she needed help to take on such a heavy load. She entered the TRIO Student Success program at the college, and sought scholarships through the Centralia College Foundation. While at Centralia College, she’s been the recipient of three scholarship, the Alice and Francis Paulus Endowment Scholarship, the Mercedes Hayertz Memorial Scholarship, and most recently the Bill and Helga Watterson Scholarship.
“Having the extra help with scholarships through the foundation has made life a lot easier while achieving my goals,” Elva said. “I’m now on a strong path for myself and my family’s security.”
In fewer than six months, Elva earned her GED and immediately set her sights on her next goal.
She earned an associate degree in accounting and finance in 2013, and then an associate degree in business in 2014. She finished her Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management (BAS-AM) degree with a focus on accounting earlier this year.
While earning her associate degree, Elva also began working for the college as a student worker in the TRIO program. She started as a part-time employee, but is now working full-time as an administrative assistant for the program. She has also remarried and is expecting her fifth child.
“It hasn’t been easy, and it’s a lot of work and responsibility, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Elva said. “Besides, I want to be a good example for my children, showing them a better way to live.”