Despite multiple hardships, Iraida Garcia persevered to earn associate degree

“Mama said there’ll be days like this, 

There’ll be days like this my Mama said.”

The Shirelles, 1961

Mama was right. There’ll be days when troubled waters keep rolling in, Simon and Garfunkel’s bridge is nowhere in sight and all one can say is, “Why me?”

Iraida Garcia has had far too many of those days over the last few years, but perhaps a better day–Saturday, May 14–made up for some of those others. That’s when she walked across the stage to graduate from TCC with an Associate of Arts in Child Development.

She had had another good day the previous week, receiving acceptances from the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington to go with the one already in the bag from Tarleton State University.

But then, there were those others, like the time when she had completed all the course work, received a diploma from a for-profit college and went to the college to take a certification exam. The school had closed–no exam, no job–just time, money and effort spent and a worthless piece of paper.

Or there was that time in early 2021 when her husband came down with COVID and the family had to quarantine for two weeks while she scrambled to keep up with classes via computer

Later that year, during the Big Freeze, she and her husband had huddled in their son’s room, the warmest in the apartment, when Garcia thought she heard water running. Her husband said he heard nothing. Unfortunately, he was wrong. A pipe had burst inside the bathroom wall and water was flooding the living room.

That fall, her three-month-old daughter caught COVID, and she had to miss the first week of school, necessitating another catch-up effort.

This past March, Garcia “felt like I was finally able to breathe,” but it was a bit premature. She had qualified for childcare assistance from the Tarrant County Child Care Management Service (CMSS) but lost it when she was no longer able to work the 25 hours per week required. Her mom helped but was able to care for the children only on her days off.

“It was like why are all these things happening,” she remembers thinking. “Everything seemed to be getting worse.”

Her instructors helped, particularly Rosa Mendez, professor of Sociology and Child Development. “I was trying to work with her the best I could by being flexible and giving her different resources,” Mendez said. “It was kind of a rippling effect for her, and it seemed she was in survivor mode. When things are constantly happening and have a profound impact, you can only think day-to-day. It’s like ‘Let me make it through the day, and I’ll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.’”

Tomorrow seems to have finally arrived for Garcia. She’s chosen UTA as the landing spot to finish her degree and then embark on a career as a bilingual elementary school teacher. “Oh, it feels good,” she said. “I’m getting ready to get orientation done for UTA. I talked with an academic advisor, and I’m ready to roll.”

She feels that, despite the many speed bumps, the experience has been worthwhile and not only because of earning her degree. “It’s worth it, because I know my son is looking up to me,” she said. “I told him that I hope he goes to college and has a major for whatever he wants to be.”

Just maybe not with so many hurdles.