• February 19, 2019

GOOD NEWS: MC student finds her voice through psychology, voice lessons - Odessa American: Good News

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GOOD NEWS: MC student finds her voice through psychology, voice lessons

Student proves it is never too late for an education

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2019 2:30 am

MIDLAND Midland College (MC) graduate Candy Zuñiga lost her mother when she was just six years old living in Mexico.

“It was the worst thing someone could go through,” Zuñiga said, holding back tears. “I have two brothers and four sisters. People have a lot of different ideas about crossing the border, but my dad walked for miles to work in the U.S. so we could have a better life. I lived with my grandmother until my father got his green card and then he brought us with him.”

Zuñiga was 12 years old when she came to the U.S. She says she was in a unique and difficult spot in her education.

“I did not finish primary school in Mexico,” Zuñiga said. “I came to the U.S. in sixth grade. I stayed stuck in the middle with language. I did not know much proper Spanish, and I did not know much proper English either. I loved to study, but it was hard for me to keep going to school. I got married early, and I had my children early, so I had to put aside my education.”

Zuñiga’s niece’s graduation inspired her.

“At the ceremony they asked the oldest and youngest graduates to stand up and be recognized,” Zuñiga said. “The oldest was 84 years old. I was embarrassed. I thought if he can do it, I can do it too. At that moment, I decided to do something and educate myself.”

Zuñiga was initially drawn to MC because it of its flexibility. Once she got there the inclusive atmosphere made it feel like home.

“No one judges you or sees you differently at MC,” Zuñiga said. “There are a lot of different people and various ages; yet, everyone comes together as a family.”

At first, Zuñiga was interested in majoring in accounting, but she fell in love with psychology. She immediately saw she could use what she learned to help others.

“In Mexican culture, people do not think kids need psychological help,” Zuñiga said. “No one ever suggested I needed therapy after I lost my mother. Later in life, I read books and realized, ‘Oh this was what was happening to me.’ I would like to work for the Spanish-speaking community. I want that community to know help is out there. If you just talk to someone, it can make you feel better. I hope I can help others realize they do not have to suffer alone in their mind.”

This past spring Zuñiga became the first in her family to receive a degree. She graduated from Midland College with an Associate of Science degree. Now Zuñiga’s motivation is teaching her grandkids by example. Her granddaughter notices all her hard work.

“My granddaughter said she was so proud of me for getting my degree,” Zuñiga said, smiling. “She was bragging to everyone at her school telling them her grandma was graduating. Her feedback made my whole life worth it.”

As if academic classes were not enough, Zuñiga is pursuing one of her hidden passions: singing. It all came about when an English Professor Glenda Lindsey-Hicks asked her students to share something they have always wanted to do, but never did.

“I told her I wanted to be a professional singer,” Zuñiga said. “She said you should try it. You just have to believe in yourself and do it.”

“Candy bloomed beyond her doubt,” said Lindsey-Hicks. “She participated eagerly in class discussions and activities. Though she doubted her skill in the rigors of the written word and in a second language, she drafted early and sought feedback, working with her peers and me in an authentic, personal way that drew students together. Candy has a passion to develop a voice that speaks to people in a meaningful way, whether that voice is written word or raised in song.”

Zuñiga took Professor Lindsey-Hicks’ advice and signed up for voice lessons at MC. Music Professor Vivian Moss took on Candy as a student, but they hit a roadblock during the first class.

“Miss Vivian said something about intonation (pitch), and I did not know what she meant,” Zuñiga said. “So I went back and started from the very beginning. I signed up for piano lessons. I am still working on it, but now I understand Miss Vivian when she talks about intonation.”

Professor Moss even got Zuñiga to sing in front of an audience at a music department performance.

“I wanted to quit, but I told myself when you are afraid of something, the best way to combat fear is to confront it,” Zuñiga said. “I am not afraid of asking questions in my classes. I need to learn. If you do not ask questions, you cannot learn. Others might expect someone else to ask because they are afraid, but with all I have gone through in life I am not afraid. I am too old to be afraid; I am here to learn.”

In five years Zuñiga said she sees herself working on her master’s degree, but she has not always been so confident.

“I told my History Professor Frank De La O, ‘I do not know if I will keep going in psychology because I will be too old when I finish,’” Zuñiga said. “But Professor De La O said my wisdom and life experience will help my practice.”

“Candy’s experience as a child, mother, grandmother, student and wife has given her more than enough life experience to prepare her for the psychology field,” De La O said. “Now she just needs the degree for the missing piece.”

After Dr. De La O’s push, Zuñiga is even more determined to get her master’s degree. Candy credits her faith in God and the support of her husband, family and friends for encouraging her through her educational journey.

Zuñiga says she feels like she is trying to bring her younger self up to speed.

“I feel like a little girl, trying to learn everything like a new toy,” Zuñiga said. “I realized I am trying to go back and rescue that little girl because I feel like she is lost. She did not realize I could do the things I am doing right now, at this age. My experiences at MC have taught me that you have to try hard and do your best. I feel amazing about learning and doing something good for myself. No one can take this experience away from me.”

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