Norma Diaz, ’14
Recipient, Kingdom Enlightenment and Reisher Scholarships
Norma Diaz is the quintessential nontraditional student. Diaz, who will graduate in 2013 with her bachelor's degree in accounting, is 41 years old, a mother of three, including a 23-year-old college student, and holds down a full-time job at Archdiocesan Housing.
A traditional college experience was never in the cards for a Latino girl with seven siblings and parents with sixth-grade educations. Although Diaz was the first in her family to complete high school, she cycled through three different schools, graduating from Adams City High School in Commerce City, where she attended the program for teen moms.
She resumed her education in 1995, earning an associate's degree at a business school and taking 12 credits at MSU Denver before getting married.
"Not having a degree has hindered my growth. It's a reason I haven't been given a higher position in my work," she says. While working at her full-time job, Diaz took on a weekend job to pay for classes at MSU Denver. She started taking one or two classes at a time and received some need-based grants. "In 2010 I got a call from the Scholarship Center saying I had qualified for a scholarship. I was thrilled, but there was a catch—I had to go to school full-time." She decided to give it a try.
It has been challenging to juggle a job, be a good mom and take a full load of college classes, too. She’s taken only one summer off since she started back at MSU Denver. But now, she’s beginning to plan for the future. "I'm thinking about sitting for the CPA test. It will take discipline and staying on target, but why not? If I don't do that, I will start working on my master's. I want to be competitive."
According to Diaz, Latino culture doesn't value education enough, especially among those who aren't well educated themselves. "Many parents don't understand the importance of school and don't encourage school beyond high school. It's important for Latinos to say, 'We need that education,' and set a goal for yourself."
Diaz considers herself a role model. She has nieces attending community college and two of them are young mothers, just as she was. "I try to motivate them to seek a bachelor's degree so that they can advance their careers. I keep encouraging them to transfer to MSU Denver. Going to school is hard, but it's doable."