Former Palomar College Student Returns to Inspire Others to Further Their Education
When Marcela Gomez was 16 years old, she came to California on what she thought was just a vacation to visit family. But when her family told her they were staying permanently and not returning to Mexico, Marcela was shocked, sad, and afraid.
At her new high school in Vista, she was placed in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program because she did not speak any English. Marcela took a part-time job where most of the workers spoke Spanish, which was a comfort to her, but she knew this was not what she dreamed of doing with her life. In order to be successful in the United States, Marcela needed to push herself to improve her English and do well in school.
After high school Marcela enrolled in the ESL program at Palomar College where she registered for reading and pronunciation courses. Marcela took a placement test and was put into the intermediate level ESL class. An ESL staff member, Jim Harlow, took notice of Marcela’s hard work in her classes and encouraged her to apply for the student administrative assistant position in the ESL office.
“My main objective after high school was to do what I needed to do to get a good job,” said Marcela. “My goal was to become a cashier, but I knew my English needed to be much better first.”
Even though English was still a barrier for her, Marcela decided to apply for the ESL office position, and she got it. She knew that continuing her education and working with other ESL students would be a great opportunity for her.
During her time at Palomar College, Marcela was pushed by Jim Harlow and her counselor to explore classes that would provide her with the necessary skills to get a job when she finished at Palomar College. Although it took her a while, Marcela went on to receive her Associate’s Degree in Office Information Systems. Still unsure of the direction she wanted to go in the workplace, Marcela spent her time at the Palomar College Career Center researching jobs and areas of interest.
“I received so much support from the counselors and teachers during my time at Palomar College that I decided I wanted to become a college counselor and help students who have the same challenges I had,” said Marcela.
Marcela knew that in order to pursue her chosen career path, she needed to further her education first. She was up for the challenge – to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree and eventually a Master’s. She held onto that vision and used it to push herself to reach her goal. Marcela received her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from California State University San Marcos followed by her Master’s Degree in College Counseling and Student Development from the University of San Diego.
After Marcela completed her Master’s, she went back to where her journey began – Palomar College. She was so grateful for the support and encouragement she received from her teachers and counselors during her time at Palomar College that she wanted to go back and help others. Marcela started working part time in the ESL Department until she was offered a fulltime position as Senior Office Specialist. A few years later, she was promoted to her current position of ESL Student Specialist where she continues to work with ESL students conducting orientations, assisting with questions, and always encouraging them to reach for their goals.
“I am just very thankful for all of the opportunities I had,” said Marcela. “Hopefully my story will motivate and encourage others to never stop working on their goals even when it gets challenging.”
Marcela is not only a role model for students in ESL programs, but for students in general. She continues to share her experiences with everyone she meets so they can see what determination and hard work can do.