It has taken Roosevelt University psychology major Odette Ojeda six years of studying at the community college and university levels, but as her May 2 graduation date approaches, the Latina single mother of three finds herself in a good place.
“I remember saying ‘God, if you want me to do this, open doors for me and I’ll keep going,” said the 34-year-old Mexican immigrant and resident of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood who has had to juggle family, work and her studies in order to achieve her dream of obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
Ojeda, who came to Roosevelt in 2012 as a transfer from Malcolm X College in Chicago, almost didn’t make it to college at all. Married at 21 and a domestic violence survivor with two children and a third on the way, Ojeda made the decision to leave her marriage, moving first into a domestic violence shelter and then into Catholic Charities housing.
“I always wanted to go to school but it was difficult given the situation,” said Ojeda, who believes she has found a voice in helping others during her time at Roosevelt University as a student in the College of Professional Studies.
“I feel like it was destiny for me to come to Roosevelt,” said Ojeda. “In two years’ time, I’ve grown a lot thanks to Roosevelt’s social justice mission.”
Ojeda, who is in Roosevelt’s Psi Chi Honors Society, Alpha Signa Lambda and the Franklin Honor Society, recently began to volunteer with Mujares Latinas en Accion, where her goal is to empower immigrant women, like herself, facing domestic violence situations. “Being at Roosevelt and seeing how passionate people are about helping others has provided me with the inspiration to reach out and help others,” she said.
With children ages 11, 9 and 7, Ojeda never thought she’d be able to afford to go to college. However, with good grades and help from the Moselynne, Mittie and Dempsey J. Travis Foundation, Ojeda will realize her dream of graduating next month at the Auditorium Theatre.
“I had to knock on so many doors to go to school,” said Ojeda, who currently works in the hospitality industry. “The Travis scholarship opened the door to Roosevelt and Roosevelt has in turn opened doors for me,” said Ojeda, who plans to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology and to work as a counselor with immigrant women facing domestic violence issues. Her thesis for her graduation is on the struggles Latina women face in achieving the American dream.
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