There were days when college didn’t seem possible for Carolina Saquiche Dominguez.
But, through support from family and University of Nebraska–Lincoln programs, Dominguez is realizing her college dream and will earn a degree in criminal justice on Aug. 14.
As a high school student in Grand Island, she took dual-credit classes to prepare herself to one day enter the world of higher education. She would be the first in her family to attend college — something her parents and grandparents constantly praised her for.
“When he [my grandpa] found out I was going to school, he was really happy,” Dominguez said. “He was really excited. He was just like, I think, the happiest person knowing that I was going to school and so that was another motivation for me.”
But before she could enroll, Dominguez’s plans fell apart.
First, her scholarship fell through. With her funding in flux, Dominguez opted to attend a community college to continue to complete credits until she figured out the financials of her education. After a few months, her father offered to help her pay her way through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Then, her father was deported. As the eldest child in her family, she felt responsible for helping her mother care for her younger siblings and keeping the family afloat.
Dominguez sensed the pull between two worlds. Unsure of where she should go next, she confided in Moises Padilla and Malika Yadgarova at the Nebraska Collegiate Preparatory Academy. Padilla and Yadgarova were able to connect her with scholarships, which made college financially possible.
But then there was the issue of making college physically possible. Being in a different city from her family felt unthinkable, especially with her father gone and her mother busy caring for her two younger siblings. And with Lincoln and Grand Island an hour and a half apart, it wasn’t exactly the quickest commute.
“It was really stressful trying to make the decision because one, I didn’t want to leave my family. … He [my father] was the main provider, so I felt the responsibility to work to help my family out,” Dominguez said.
Rather than give up her dreams of college or feel like she was leaving her family behind, Dominguez settled on another plan. She would pack her schedule with classes for a few days and then drive home to Grand Island the rest of the week to be with her family and work.
Being between two worlds wasn’t always easy. There were times she questioned what she was doing, and if she should give everything up in Lincoln to go home and be there for her mom.
“It was just a really hard situation, but I had friends who would tell me … if you dropped out right now … it’s going to be harder for you to help her in the future,” Dominguez said. “But if you can go on, you’re going to struggle right now for a few years, but in the future you’ll be able to help her out more.”
Dominguez kept going. Even with balancing her job in Grand Island and helping her family, she managed to complete her undergraduate degree in two years.
With her degree almost in hand, Dominguez has big plans. After graduating Aug. 14 with a degree in criminal justice, she hopes to work for a law firm before pursuing a master’s degree in hospitality. From there, she’d like to attend law school and become an immigration attorney. She then would like to open a business, as well as a nonprofit.
“I feel like right now, how I plan to do it is go to law school, work as an attorney for a few years, save and invest money to make my other two dreams come true,” Dominguez said.
The 20-year-old knows she’ll have to work hard — but she’s already learned that with planning and persistence, her goals can be achieved.
Now she’ll be surrounded by the people she loves on graduation day. Her father was able to return to the United States in 2020, and he plans to watch her cross the stage to receive her diploma. Dominguez is especially excited to be the first in her family to receive a college degree.
“My mom would tell me, ‘You are going to be able to accomplish what I wasn’t able to accomplish,’” Dominguez said. “This is a goal that’s dedicated to them now, too.”
As an immigrant from Guatemala, the milestone is especially important. Now, Dominguez hopes her determination inspires her siblings, cousins and members of the immigrant community.
“It is possible,” Dominguez said. “As long as you reach out, look out for resources … it is possible.”