Graduating psychology major Irma Gomez faces more challenges than does the average traditional-aged college student.
However, the straight-A honor’s student who struggles with daily physical pain and emotional concerns regarding her parents’ precarious immigration status, never lets personal difficulties get in the way.
President of Roosevelt’s Association of Latin American Students (ALAS), the Peer Mentor Program, correspondent for The Torch student newspaper and editor of the national college magazine, Her Campus, Gomez recently won the University’s Student Leader of the Year Award.
The first in her family to receive a college diploma, Gomez plans to leave her wheelchair and use a walker when she crosses the stage of the Auditorium Theatre for her bachelor’s degree in psychology on Friday, May 11.
“I walked across the stage for my eighth grade graduation from Richard J. Daley Elementary Academy and then in my high school graduation from Lindblom Math and Science Academy,” said Gomez, who was born and raised in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.
“I want to do it again for my Roosevelt graduation,” added Gomez, who was diagnosed at four years of age with skeletal dysplasia, a chronic bone and cartilage malformation condition that has led to her using a wheelchair since middle school.
However, the disability hasn’t been a factor in Gomez’ many contributions at Roosevelt University.
“I can’t say enough about Irma’s reliability, her motivation and ability to get things done. I don’t think of Irma as being in a wheelchair. She’s just outstanding in every way,” said Danielle Smith, associate director of Roosevelt’s Academic Success Center where Gomez leads peer mentoring.
An only child, Gomez worries about her mother, who does not speak English and is in ill health, and her father, a factory worker and breadwinner of the family.
“My greatest hope is that my parents soon become naturalized citizens,” said Gomez. “Regardless of their struggle, they have done everything they can for me as I’ve pursued my education. They have inspired and motivated me to get an education, and I want to be able to help them and others.”
A prestigious Dempsey Travis scholar, Gomez hopes to one day earn a master’s degree in higher education or in counseling. Her dream is to be able to work professionally in higher education counseling students. She also would like to start an arts center for troubled youth in her south-side neighborhood, where gangs and violence have been a concern.
“She feels a responsibility to her peers at Roosevelt University and in helping others in her community,” said Miguel Jimenez, a Roosevelt lecturer in English who grew up in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood and is one of Gomez’ mentors.
“She’s brought energy in creating a joyful and happy environment for her peers at Roosevelt,” said Jimenez, who has been the faculty advisory for the student chapter of ALAS, a group of more than 25 active Latino students at Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus. Gomez has been president of the student chapter since 2017.
“This is a student who doesn’t let anything hold her back,” added Jimenez. “She will be missed at Roosevelt, but certainly she will have a positive impact in the near future in making her home and community better places to be.”