VC student never quit on dream of higher education

Jennifer Villarreal was one of four winners of the Victoria College Foundation’s “What’s Your Story?” scholarship.

Jennifer Villarreal had finally found the time to concentrate on continuing her education. Then, just days before she was to begin the spring 2020 semester at Victoria College, Villarreal had second thoughts.

“A week before classes started, I told myself I wasn’t coming,” Villarreal said. “I was excited about finally getting to start, but our finances weren’t that good. I thought my top priority should be going to get a job.”

It took some encouraging words from her children and husband, Anthony, to convince the 46-year-old Villarreal not to withdraw from her classes.

“My children told me, ‘Go ahead, Mom. We’ll manage,’ ” said Villarreal, who has four daughters – Angelina, Billie, Michaela and Geneva. “My husband also told me he was proud of me and he didn’t want me to quit. He said, ‘You got this. Don’t worry about it.’ That really convinced me to go on with it.”

Despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and other challenges, Villarreal successfully completed 15 credit hours of study at Victoria College. Villarreal was recently named a winner of the Victoria College Foundation’s “What’s Your Story?” $1,000 scholarship contest after submitting an essay describing her determination to begin her higher education journey at the age of 46.

“In the short time I have been at Victoria College, every professor and employee has supported me in not only my classes, but also emotionally,” Villarreal wrote in her essay. “They have been there to listen to my problems, no matter what I had to talk about.”

Villarreal’s hopes of pursuing a college education after high school were postponed as she was married shortly after graduation. Villarreal was later accepted to attend Texas State University in 1993, but became pregnant with her first child and decided to again delay her college education.

Villarreal still hoped to attend college after giving birth to her fourth and final child. But most of her attention turned to her parents, who became seriously ill.

“It wasn’t until 2017 when I seriously began talking about college again,” Villarreal said. “I decided to get some information and find out how I could get started. But my mother passed away, and my oldest daughter was attending Victoria College. I decided to help her out so she could remain in college.”

Finally, in September 2019, Villarreal made the decision to start at Victoria College.

“When asking for advice pertaining to my future, I find that VC personnel are more than happy to help guide me in the right direction,” Villarreal wrote. “This not only helps me with my learning, but also boosts my self-esteem. Thanks to Victoria College, I have no doubt I will succeed.”

Villarreal, who is a student worker at VC’s Museum of the Coastal Bend, said she was surprised to hear that she was a winner of the “What’s Your Story?” scholarship.

“My daughters will tell you that I was like a giddy, little schoolgirl when I found out,” said Villarreal, who is pursuing an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in business management at VC and plans to transfer to the University of Houston-Victoria to obtain her bachelor’s degree. “I would check my email every day. I got the letter in the mail, and I was walking up the driveway reading it. One of my daughters was looking out the window, and she asked what I was reading. I shouted, ‘Look what I got!’ ”

Villarreal, who took 15 credit hours of classes in the summer and is enrolled for 16 in the fall, said she would encourage anyone to never give up on their dream of continuing their education.

“When I came to Pirate Orientation, I knew I would be the oldest person there,” Villarreal said. “But as I started going to classes, I realized that there are a lot of people my age and older trying to better themselves. I have learned it’s never too late to go back to school. I’m glad I did.”

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