“Knowledge is one thing that no one can take away from me.”
As Rosey Gutierrez heads to University of California, San Diego this fall to pursue a degree in data science, she can’t help but look back on her journey through community college. In fact, it was a journey that might not have even happened if it wasn’t for a little nudge.
When Rosey first enrolled at MiraCosta College as an adult student, academics were a thing of the past. She had been working in IT for years and as a self-taught computer expert, Rosey was happily building her career in the technology space.
Admittedly though, the dream of higher education was never far from her mind.
Years ago, when Rosey first immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of 13, school was always something she enjoyed. From middle school through high school, Rosey was an exemplary student and had visions of getting a degree in psychology. But as an undocumented youth at the time, the pathway to university was complicated.
“I was so excited about college, I had my four years planned out and I was ready even before it came time to start applying,” shared Rosey. “Unfortunately, because I was undocumented, my family wasn’t as excited. They were concerned and knew it would be a challenge financially.”
Naturally, this reality took a toll. Paying for college out of pocket would be almost impossible at the time and Rosey’s excitement slowly waned.
Explained Rosey, “Looking back now it’s easy to smile about it, but you can even see the moment I realized I might not be able to go to college. I had received all A’s throughout high school but then I got a C right around the time this reality set in.”
Instead, while many of her peers headed off to college after high school, Rosey joined the workforce. She took various odds jobs to earn a living, and as the years passed Rosey found a passion for computers and IT. She self-taught herself the intricacies of how computers work and the hardware technology behind them, and started building a career in the local tech field.
Then in 2012, the passage of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) created a new opportunity. Rosey applied for the deferred status and the process reignited her dream of college that she once held.
But the prospect of returning to school as an adult was scary. It had been ages since Rosey stepped foot in a classroom and she wasn’t sure if the goal of getting a college degree was just a thing of the past.
Recalled Rosey, “One day I was telling my husband about my dream of going to college and he said, ‘Why not?’” It was the nudge I needed and its thanks to him that I’m on this path now.”
While balancing her full-time career, Rosey enrolled in a few classes at MiraCosta College where she initially felt apprehensive as a returning student. However, she quickly found a welcoming and supportive community that helped her overcome any uncertainties.
In her English class during the spring of 2019, Rosey shared her story of being self-taught in computers and IT. This caught the attention of Professor Tyrone Nagai, who gave her a unique extra credit assignment – to go have a conversation with computer science Professor Nery Chapetón-Lamas.
Naturally, as a lifelong overachiever, Rosey took advantage immediately. And the assignment changed her life. Rosey was instantly captivated and enrolled in a slew of classes that opened up the world of computer science to her.
In the years that followed, Rosey leaned into computer science under the mentorship of Professor Chapetón-Lamas. She supported newer students as a teaching assistant, founded the Computer Science for the Common Good club on campus, and served as the Student Lead for the GOALS in CS grant project, an initiative aimed at improving learning outcomes and closing equity gaps for aspiring computer science graduates.
“Rosey was pivotal in supporting our grant project,” shared Professor Chapetón-Lamas. “She surpassed my high expectations and set an incredible bar for all of us to reach for.”
Despite the challenges of balancing school with work, all while taking classes during a pandemic, Rosey earned the MiraCosta College Medal of Academic Merit and in the spring of 2023, she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.
Rosey is now preparing to embark on the next chapter of her life at UC San Diego, where she will pursue a degree in data science. And just as she did when she was a young teenager, Rosey already have her sights set on what’s next.
“I want to use technology to make a positive impact on society,” shared Rosey. “I want to use my knowledge to make the world a better place.