The first high school graduate in her family, Cynthia Benitez Hernandez stopped out of courses at Austin Community College (ACC) when she got pregnant. “It wasn’t a possibility,” she says. Then at 34, she found herself living in a single bedroom with her son and realized that working full-time at low-wage jobs would never be enough to improve their lives.
“I had a car payment, rent to pay, food to put on the table and a son. I was going to be in a cycle and not be able to break out of it,” she says. “I wanted to do something meaningful and purposeful.”
In similar fashion, Malia Capers-Cristabol had taken a break from college to take care of her ailing father. After becoming a parent two years later, she made a promise to both her father and her daughter that she would go back to school to provide a better life for her daughter, and that she’d do so to pursue a career that would allow her to care for those in need of care like her father.
“Having a child,” she says, “changed everything.”
Today, both women are enrolled full-time in ACC’s nursing program, with their sights on becoming RNs. For both, doing so would not have been possible without resources provided by the college—support for childcare and other financial needs, as well as coaching and connections to community resources that are allowing both women to reach their goals.
“We’re setting a path for our kids and their future,” Benitez Hernandez says.Read the full report
This case study is part of ATD’s Community College Women Succeed initiative, which aims to identify and promote effective strategies that help adult women students succeed in community college.
Learn more about this initiative