It wasn’t until Migdalia Serrato went back to Mexico, after being gone for almost 20 years, that she understood the sacrifice her parents made.
Now in her late 20s with two boys of her own, she saw the severely limited options in her poverty-stricken hometown of Durango, Mexico: Parents wanted the best for their children, but without enough paying jobs, they couldn’t afford uniforms and supplies necessary to send their children to school.
Had Serrato stayed in Mexico with her grandparents, she wouldn’t be where she is today: about to graduate with an Associate of Arts in business administration from Community College of Denver (CCD), with dreams of one day working in business operations for Google or Amazon.
When she was 9 years old, though, Serrato was more than happy to live in Mexico, being raised by her grandparents while her father and mother worked in the United States. When Serrato’s father insisted she join them in Colorado, she struggled; knowing no other life, she didn’t understand what was lacking in Mexico. They told her they wanted a better future for her, “But I didn’t even know what a better future was,” she says.
But her parents knew: neither one of them could go to middle school in Mexico, and their town had no work for them.
At first, American life was tough for Serrato. She didn’t know English and she missed the grandparents who raised her. Like most immigrants, however, she eventually assimilated; she attended middle school and high school like an American teenager and dreamed about a career.
But when she realized she didn’t have a social security number and couldn’t apply for college, she wondered why her parents brought her to the United States.
“’What’s the point of moving here if I can’t follow my dreams?’” Serrato remembers thinking. “I asked my dad, ‘Can I just go back to Mexico and do my school there?’ He’s like, ‘No, you have no future there.’”
For 10 years after graduating high school, Serrato worked in restaurants, public schools and real estate throughout Colorado, always drifting towards tasks and positions that had to do with business.
Then, in her late 20s, Serrato learned about The Dream U.S., a road to college for kids who grew up in the United States as illegal immigrants.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Serrato remembers. “When I learned it was true, I decided that I have to be an example for my kids.”
Once she was accepted, she had to find a partner college of the program. Through an online search, she found CCD. She was attracted to the diversity of the student body and their two-year business program.
As a single mother of two boys, ages 12 and 10, and responsible for her younger brother, age 14, Serrato already had a lot on her mind — add in the stress of applying for college, worrying about fitting in and doing well, and how to pay for it, and she was feeling uncertain about her future.
CCD immediately eased that stress. Advisors like Tanika Vaughn and Ivonne “Andrea” Kossik guided and supported her, and students made her feel welcome.
“Even though you’re stressing, CCD gives you the support to keep you going,” she says. “If I could do my four-year degree at CCD, I would do it.”
Serrato joined the business program, earned at least two scholarships per semester, and with help from her children’s father, she is already working on her bachelor’s degree at another school on the Auraria Campus, even before graduating from CCD in December 2018.
She plans to obtain two internships over the summer while she pursues a four-year degree in business management with a concentration in operations.
“It’s never too late to go back to school,” Serrato says. “I think CCD is the perfect place and has the perfect people to help you start your education.”
Two years ago, Serrato traveled back to Durango, Mexico to visit her ailing grandfather.
“Going back and seeing with my own eyes how people live, it makes me more thankful,” Serrato says. “With me getting this education, I want to have my dad see all the things I have accomplished due to his decisions. I saw in Mexico that if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it. One decision saved my life, my future, and my kids’ future.”