Grad’s goals went from “just finish up degree” to newfound passion for public policy and social change.
By Mira Radovich, Senior Contributing Writer
While it may have taken Christine Huerta 20+ years to reach her goal of a college degree, the payoff far exceeded the wait. In fact, you could say it was life-altering.
“I started my goal of graduating from college 23 years ago, but after two years in school, I stopped going to start a family,” Huerta said.
Now married with three sons, Huerta decided to finish what she started.
“I promised our then 7-year-old son that I would be the first to graduate college in our family,” Huerta said. “Nothing was going to deter me from doing that.”
She took classes at both Mesa Community College and Estrella Mountain Community College before enrolling at Rio Salado College.
“I chose Rio Salado because I needed the flexibility to take classes on my schedule,” Huerta said. “However, my classes at Rio Salado are where my mind was opened to a whole new world.”
Huerta thought she knew her end goal when she started back at school. But then everything changed.
“Life has an interesting way of changing your course just when you think you have it all figured out,” Huerta said. “Rio helped open my eyes to many things going on in our world and gave me the curiosity and desire to do more than just finish my degree.”
Specifically, Huerta’s academic interests were piqued after taking several classes including economics, science, diversity, and social welfare.
“I enjoyed all my classes, from a tough biology class that I did not want to take, but ended up learning a lot from, to a cultural diversity course and truly being opened to other people’s perspectives and understanding our differences was an experience I will never forget,” she said.
In May, Huerta earned her associate of arts degree at Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony.
“I would not have this degree if it wasn’t for my own hard work, and the support and encouragement of my husband and family,” Huerta said.
She also credited the Maricopa Community Colleges’ instructional staff.
“My professors helped expand my knowledge and gave me encouragement and guidance that transformed my life.”
Fueled by her academic success and newfound passion for social issues, Huerta plans to transfer to Arizona State University in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in law and public policy.
“My goal is to be able to work in public policy and advocate for those who need support in life,” Huerta said. “Our world is full of amazing individuals who need more help, and our public policy should reflect that.”
While Huerta looks forward to seeing what her next life chapter brings, she is also philosophical about the road already traveled.
“I started this journey as an 18-year-old high school graduate,” Huerta said. “I finished it as a 44-year-old married mom of three amazing autistic boys.”
“Had I taken one class at a time, I would have completed a degree a long time ago. However, it would not have been in something that sets my soul on fire the way public policy does.”