Ana Garcia has had more than a fair share of hardships since immigrating to the United States 18 years ago, and were it not for the education and support she received from Lone Star College–Tomball, she says she would have given up pursuing her dream of becoming an accountant.
When she came to Texas in 1989 to join her family that had moved here, Garcia didn't speak any English.
"I couldn't even go to the store because I did not know one word of English and I was afraid that someone would say something to me and I wouldn't understand them," says Garcia. "I knew that I was limiting myself, but I didn't think that I would need to learn because my children spoke English and they basically served as interpreters for me and my husband."
Despite having lived in America for 14 years not knowing the language, when her husband was tragically killed in an accident in 2003, Garcia was forced to do just that and more.
"I had no choice but to learn English and get an education," she says. "My three children were depending on me to put food on their plate and here I was in a country where I didn't speak the language and I had no skills at all."
After taking a private English course and obtaining her GED, Garcia enrolled at Lone Star College–Tomball and began pursing an associate of arts degree in business and has been accepted into Sam Houston State University where she plans to earn a bachelors degree in accounting.
Garcia has supported her family by working in the Lone Star College–Tomball Student Life Center and has supported her education by earning several scholarships and participating in the campus SALSA Club, which offers extra-curricular educational and cultural opportunities for Hispanic students.
"Ana was bound and determined to receive an education and when she discovered the many different scholarships available for our students she was very excited and has been quite successful in financing her education," says Lone Star College–Tomball Counselor/Professor of Human Development Courses Barbara Lujan, who also serves as the SALSA Club Sponsor.
Garcia has earned scholarships from the American Association for Women in Community Colleges; Executive Women International; the Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund; and the Residual Foundation Funds. She has also been invited to participate in leadership training and other conferences.
"I just got back from Orlando where we were able to sit in on panel discussions about being leaders and what it takes to advance in our careers," says Garcia. "Here I was mingling with presidents and vice-presidents of major companies! It was like a dream come true."
Lujan says she is so impressed with Garcia's work in the office and in the classroom, particularly since losing her husband could have paralyzed her.
"I think Ana felt really lost when her husband died but she has turned that into this conviction that she is going to get her degree and become an accountant," says Lujan. "And having seen what a great job she does as a work study student in the Lone Star College–Tomball Counseling Office I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever she puts her mind to."
When Garcia was tested again last year by the death of her father, who had been a very strong source of support for her, she once again found herself at a crossroads, but pulled through with the same resolution, says Lujan.
"I went to Barbara and told her that I could not stay in school anymore - that losing my father on top of losing my husband was too much for me to handle," says Garcia. "And Barbara told me ‘Ana, you can't not do it. You have come too far.' After I heard that, I went home and prayed and the next day I knew that Barbara was right and I had to finish my degree at Lone Star College–Tomball."
Garcia says she credits her strength and her children for being able to achieve what she has, but she also thanks those that helped her along the way. Ana's son received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin last May indicating that her commitment to higher education has been passed down to her children as well.
"I am very grateful to the Lone Star College–Tomball professors and counselors who have been there for me. I have no words to express my gratitude to them," says Garcia. "The amount of support that I have received is incredible. And now I spend a lot of my time recommending to everyone - especially women without husbands - that they should consider earning a degree at Lone Star College–Tomball, because if I can do it, anyone can."
Tomball College is a member of the Lone Star College System. Lone Star College System comprises Lone Star College–CyFair, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Lone Star College–Montgomery, Lone Star College-North Harris, Lone Star College–Tomball, six satellite centers and The University Center.