By Brianna Lusk
3:57 PM PST, February 17, 2012
Growing up just down the street from San Diego State University – Imperial Valley Campus, Norma Aguilar could have never imagined as a child that this is where her story would culminate, with her achieving that far-off dream of a better life.
The education she worked so desperately to realize is reflected by the campus’s proximity to the home she shares with her daughter Patricia — it’s less than a couple of blocks away and it’s been in the background all along.
Norma Aguilar’s story starts how so many other cautionary tales end. Pregnant at 19, her world came to a halt as she realized everything was about to change forever. The triumph of completing her college degree would have to come much later — long after the place she considered a playground as a child became her alma mater.
“Having a baby at 19 changed the focus of my life. Surviving was my priority,” Aguilar says.
It’s all part of Aguilar’s inspiring past, one checkered by the toils of being a single parent, driven by a work ethic passed down through generations and a desire to finish her bachelor’s degree, which would span the course of two decades. Now, as an academic advisor and student recruiter for San Diego State University - Imperial Valley Campus, Aguilar has made a mission of motivating students at SDSU and guiding them through graduation.
“Every day, in some way, I get to help someone,” she adds.
“She went everywhere with me. In the days before car seats she put her arm around my neck in the car and just held on. That’s the kind of relationship we still have.” – Hilda A. Flores, Aguilar’s oldest sister
Education is the reason Aguilar’s parents emigrated from Mexico. Her mother Crispina Castro Aguilar only completed third grade. Her father Vicente Estrada Aguilar stopped his childhood education after first grade. Their dream was like so many other — to create more opportunities for their children.
The youngest of 12, Aguilar was no stranger to poverty before her own struggle as a single mother. Both of her parents worked the fields, and the family would migrate to follow the work to the north as the seasons changed. While they called Calexico home, even the children understood the meaning of easily accepting transition and pulling their own weight.
Poignantly, the property Aguilar lives on was paid for, in part, by the entire family’s work in the fields, as even the children were not exempt from helping to make ends meet.
It was during this time that Aguilar’s understanding of the importance of workers’ rights would take hold and never let go. The impact of meeting Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta during that time has always driven Aguilar to stay involved.
“My mom worked in the fields and in the packing sheds in Brawley. My dad was a tractor driver. I remember going out with my mom and spending time on the picket lines. She even got arrested,” Aguilar says.
Read more about Norma Aguilar in the January/February 2012 edition of Valley Women Magazine in print or our online E-Edition.
Copyright © 2013, Imperial Valley Press