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Despite Obstacles, Single Mom Stayed the Course. Now, the New Grad Wants to Help Others

A woman in a white dress, red lipstick and reddish dark hair smiles and wears a green Cal Poly graduation robe and green and gold Cal Poly graduation stole.
Written By Gabby Ferreira | Video by Matt Yoon

Francisca Camarillo clearly remembers the moment she felt called to pursue higher education.

It happened when she was working at a Jack in the Box and asked a customer in the drive-thru if they wanted ketchup with their order. As she asked the question, she suddenly flashed back to a conversation she had in high school with her 11th grade economics teacher.

“He said, ‘I don’t wanna go and see you asking me if I want ketchup with that,’” she remembered. The flashback gave her an epiphany.

In that moment, she decided to go back to school.

“I felt like I had potential for more,” she said. And now, graduating Cal Poly is a major milestone on her journey to helping others.

Camarillo, a mother and a case manager at Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) in Santa Maria, is graduating with a degree in liberal studies and hopes to earn her multiple subject teaching credential at Cal Poly. Once she earns her credential, her goal is to teach in Santa Maria schools and educate students in three languages: English, Spanish and Mixtec.

Camarillo said she hopes her story, and the sacrifices she’s made to get an education, will inspire both her own kids and her future students to go to school, get an education and change their lives.

“Just knowing my students have the potential to be whoever they want to be is what made me sacrifice a lot of things instead of going out and having fun,” she said. “I know that the future is brighter because of education; I know that I’m going to go back. I’m going to make a difference.”