‘No One Can Take An Education Away’

Iracema Camargo Garcia has faced challenges that most of us can’t fathom.

“I suffered a lot in my country,” she remembers.

But Iracema is a fighter. No matter what challenges faced her, she persevered.

Iracema emigrated from Mexico when she was 20 years old.

“It was really hard,” Iracema says. “I came here and there was no support for me. I didn’t speak any English at all. And, I didn’t have any family or any friends.”

Still, she didn’t give up. After working as a janitor, she founded a maintenance business.

Iracema wanted to improve her English, so that her business could be even more successful. Luckily, she heard about Contra Costa College.

“I’m so glad that I found CCC,” Iracema says, “because I had a really, really wonderful professor who helped me a lot: Miss Ruby, who teaches [English as a Second Language]. She was my mentor. She always had time for me, and questions that I have.”

While at CCC, Iracema started to dream bigger. What if she took business courses at CCC to boost her business expertise, then transferred to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which she heard was a premier institution? Wouldn’t that help her run a better and more efficient business?

At CCC’s Counseling Center, Iracema found the support she needed to see those dreams through.

“I met a counselor, Julie Skoler,” she recalls. “She is so nice. She’s so wonderful. She helped me a lot. She was the only one who said, ‘Okay, if you want to go to Haas give it a try. You know that it’s really hard to get in. But if you don’t try, you will never know if you can get in. You want something, go get it.’”

Iracema worked hard. She raised her children (now eight and ten). She ran her business, often studying at the same time. And, she never gave up.

Her determination paid off. She was accepted to both Haas and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Iracema also received the EOPS Transfer Scholarship, the Associated Student Union Achievement Scholarship, the Stephen Schaefer Scholarship and the prestigious Kennedy King Scholarship.

She credits those with helping her continue on.

“Everything up to now is because of the foundation,” Iracema insists. “Because, you know, I was struggling with the rent. When I earned the first scholarships, I could pay my rent, I could bring food to my home. I was so happy, because I was able to buy my books. And there was less stress in my life, so I could function better in school.”

Iracema has chosen to transfer to Haas, because she wants to stay close to her chosen home. She wants to use her own success to give back to the community, by helping those in need and encouraging people to pursue higher education.

“I need to make a lot of money,” she explains, “because there are a lot of people with needs. Giving money to students like these. Sponsors, these people who gave to me – they changed my life. I’m trying to do big business so I can have a foundation or something to support students with the books or with money.”

“I want to say to all the students that they can do it,” she says. “No matter what is your background.”

“And, if you come here, you have to tell other people–your cousins, your brothers, everybody–‘I go to school.’ Because if you do it, you are helping them, and you’re helping the country, because education is powerful.”

“No one can take an education away from me. They can take my accounts. They can take everything, but education…never.”