Diana Trejo was both a proud graduate and a proud mother when she and her son, Samuel, participated in the Commencement ceremony for Northern Virginia Community College on May 14, 2017.
Diana, 42, received an associate degree in business administration and Samuel, 18, earned an associate degree in general studies. Both graduated with honors. The two Nokesville residents were students at NOVA’s Manassas Campus.
Diana took a nontraditional route to her degree. “In high school, class of 1993, I took several AP exams which knocked out a lot of core requirements,” she said. “I received an International Student Scholarship to attend Sweet Briar College and was studying romance languages and education to possibly become a Spanish, French or ESL teacher. I didn't complete the bachelor’s but instead came back home, attended Bible School and got married.
“My husband, Armando, has a flooring contracting business and I soon realized that my knowledge of literature, languages and education was of little help to him,” Diana continued. “So in 2001, I started taking core business classes like Intro to Business, Accounting and Intro to Computer Software at NOVA.”
She was able to complete several classes before her family life became more complicated. “By the time I had three classes left, I also had three little children and was homeschooling my oldest son so I decided to put off my classes until my kids got older.”
She eventually had seven more children and has homeschooled all of them while also helping her husband with his business. In addition to Samuel, the family includes 20-year-old David who is also a NOVA student, Ana, 16, Nathanael, 14, Esteban, 12, Timoteo, 10, Joel, 8, Lucas, 6, Lydia, 4, and Isaac, 1.
When her oldest sons started taking classes at NOVA, Diana decided it was time to return to her studies as well. In fact, she registered for the same speech class as her eldest son, David. “He was surprised to have me in his class but was a good sport about it,” she said.
“It has been pretty neat to take classes in the same season as my kids. I was able to know first-hand the resources that are available to them and recently recommended chemistry tutoring to Samuel. I also am encouraging David to go to the math lab, which was so helpful to me, to do his math homework when he starts precalculus,” Diana said.
Diana praised several professors for being caring and dedicated. “I am so glad that I took Intro to Communication with Don Smith. Mr. Smith is a real treasure and I was really fortunate to have him as a professor. Sami Nefissi showed genuine concern for students. Julie Edgar loves math and science so much and teaches not just how to solve math problems but also to understand the big overarching math concepts and applications. She made a tough class enjoyable.”
Diana tells other adult learners not to be afraid to take classes at NOVA. “Everyone at NOVA has been encouraging and helpful. I would recommend starting with a night or weekend class because the online option is helpful if you can't make it to class but usually has more work to compensate for class attendance.”
When asked if Commencement was more meaningful because she graduated with Samuel, Diana said, “Definitely! One of the reasons I started up again is because I thought it would be really cool to graduate with my son.”
In the fall, Samuel will continue his education at George Mason University where he will pursue a degree in nursing with plans to become a nurse anesthetist. He feels starting at NOVA was a smart idea.
“I have been able to stay at home and complete my general education courses and nursing prerequisites at a fraction of the cost of a four-year school,” Samuel said. “I really like the student-teacher ratio at NOVA. We have direct access to excellent professors who are willing to personally help with any questions or concerns.”
Samuel could have graduated last year but stayed at NOVA to take prerequisites for the nursing program at George Mason. “I took a year off to complete chemistry and work to pay off my car. Waiting the extra year to graduate gave my mom time to catch up, although she thinks she has given me time to catch up to her.”
For Diana, Commencement brought closure to something that had been on the back burner for years. Right now she plans to take a break from academics to focus on homeschooling and raising her other children, but a bachelor’s degree is definitely in her future.
Congratulations Diana and Samuel!
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.