Redefining Expectations

by the College of Education  /   Apr 26, 2018

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The graduation of Anamaria Rosales from Illinois is a milestone for her and her family.

Rosales is a first-generation college student. Her parents came to the U.S. from Mexico, and while they only achieved a grade-school education, they wanted more for their daughter. Rosales expected she would graduate from high school, but that was it.

But that wasn’t it.

With the help of an organization in her community called Evanston Scholars, she applied to 11 universities. The decision to apply to Illinois was a last-minute one, but intuitively it felt right. Rosales submitted her application on the day of the deadline and not only was she accepted, but she was offered a full scholarship. Four years later, the degree she earned in early childhood education, with a concentration in Spanish, has made her hardworking parents extremely proud.

Rosales is also proud of the personal growth she experienced at Illinois.

“People at the school believed in me before I believed in myself,” she says. “I went from believing I couldn't go to college to graduating with nearly a 4.0 grade-point average—and best of all, debt free.”

Rosales says that at first she thought the U of I was too far from home.

“It’s kind of laughable now,” she says of the three-hour drive that once seemed too far.

That drive was eclipsed by time zones and continents as Rosales embarked on two study-abroad trips to Chile and Italy as part of her educational experience.

Illinois encouraged her and gave her confidence. She wanted her family to have that same sense of possibility. While in school, Rosales invited her younger cousins to campus to see the libraries, hang out on the Quad, and go bowling at the Illini Union. She wanted them to see that they too could attend the U of I or another university if they work for it. 

Upon arrival as a freshman, Rosales was a bit intimidated by the university’s large size. She quickly saw, however, that the big campus offered students lots of resources and opportunities. Though it was an adjustment, attending the U of I helped Rosales leave her comfort zone far behind.

“It helped transform me in the sense that I am now more outspoken, more confident, and more comfortable sharing my story,” she said. “And part of that transformation these past four years has included using what I’ve learned to help others.”