Almost every day that 23-year-old Mariana Luna of Chicago’s east side has arrived for classes at Roosevelt University, she has faced a painful reminder.
Her father fell from a CTA platform on Wabash Avenue near the University’s Chicago Campus entrance in 2008.
“Every time I see that spot on the street or out the window when I’m in the school cafeteria, I think of my dad,” she said.
An immigrant from Mexico, her father made a life for his wife and four children, including Luna, in Chicago by doing specialty painting at great heights including difficult-to-reach spaces at Soldier Field, the antennas at Willis Tower and major area bridges.
He had been on a job on the el platform when he fell.
“He always wanted me to get an education and do something better with my life than he did, and now I’m doing it,” said Luna, who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology this month.
Her father’s injuries included a broken hand, broken legs and blow to the head that left him unable to walk, talk or complete daily tasks.
”I thought about staying home to help my dad but I couldn’t just forget about college because I knew that he wanted me to go,” said Luna, who enrolled at Roosevelt shortly after the accident in fall 2008.
As a result of circumstances, Luna had to work two part-time jobs while taking classes in order to afford the tuition. She also had to spend evenings helping her mother at home with her younger siblings and her father’s rehabilitation, making it difficult at times to focus on her studies.
“It’s been a challenge and I feel like there have been a lot of obstacles,” said Luna, who, nonetheless, didn’t give up even when some of her friends questioned why she would put college first.
“I’ve learned that excuses don’t cut it,” said Luna, whose family, including her father, will be in the audience when she walks across the Auditorium Theatre stage on Friday.
“And I can’t wait to graduate to make my father proud,” she added.
The Roosevelt graduate, who hopes to one day become a clinical psychologist helping others in her community, has just been accepted into Roosevelt’s Master in Clinical Psychology program, which will start in the fall. “This is a great accomplishment and I want to tell others: ‘If I can do this, anyone can do it.’”
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