Two years after immigrating to the United States from Peru, Lucy Cook was struggling.
It was 2012 and despite her best efforts she was just not picking up the English language. She was feeling an extreme sense of isolation like so many others new to this country and did not know where to turn for help.
That’s when she discovered Mt. Hood Community College’s (MHCC) English as a Second Language (ESL) program through someone she met at a birthday party.
“For a moment I thought to myself ‘this is going to be too expensive; college is something I can’t afford,’” she said.
Luckily, she was wrong. Upon visiting MHCC, she found out her ESL classes would only be $35. Not long after that first visit, she was enrolled and on her way to learning and improving her English language.
Little did she know that this would be the first step on her path to eventually earning an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and, finally, a master’s.
“If an immigrant like me with broken English can do it, so can you,” Lucy said.
After taking a few ESL classes, Lucy was catching on and enjoying the challenges associated with learning, but was still unsure if continuing her education was for her. College classes seemed so expensive and she would need a lot of help along the
At the encouragement of her instructors, Lucy took her placement test and began taking English as a New Language (ENL) classes alongside her degree program of choice – medical office assistant. She also applied for and, to her surprise, received an
MHCC Foundation scholarship.
“I have to say thank you to the donors for their financial support, for believing in me and my story and for making my dream of earning a college degree come true,” she said.
Just like many students, Lucy faced moments of struggle, hardship and stress during her academic journey. Each time she felt overwhelmed, however, another MHCC resource would pop up and empower her to keep going.
When she struggled with her studies, she went to the AVID and Learning Success Center for help.
“I remember I hated math. I couldn’t understand it. In my mind I thought I couldn’t do it because it was too complex, but they explained it in a way that was easier for me to understand,” she said. “The AVID tutors were so helpful, so passionate and
only want to see students succeed during college.”
When she faced personal hardship, she discovered the Transitions/Transiciones program for students who need extra support through their college education. Finally, she joined MHCC’s TRIO program for first-generation students, which pushed her to complete
and, eventually, continue her higher education.
In 2015, she officially completed her associate of applied science – Medical Office Specialist, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I felt a lot of support through the Transitions and TRIO programs” she said. “Once I was finished, I wanted to stay productive and my professors encouraged me to transfer to a four-year school.”
She headed to Concordia University to pursue her next degree while still taking a few pre-requisites at MHCC. On top of that, she was working full time.
“It’s very stressful, but you just have to stay strong and share those feelings of stress with others because you are not alone,” she said.
By 2018, she completed her bachelor’s degree in health care administration and knew that at that point, the only way to keep going was up, so she applied to the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Portland State University (PSU)
“I thought ‘why not? It’s only two years. I can do it,’” she said.
On June 14, 2020, she proved that she was right by officially completing her MBA. Now she is on the lookout for her dream opportunity in project or supply chain management.
Through it all, she consistently thinks back to all of the support she received along the way and encourages students like herself to keep three words in mind always: commitment, discipline and passion.
“My advice to students is to know their resources. There are so many at MHCC. If you are struggling in class, share your struggles. Seek help,” she said. “Professors at MHCC are passionate, nice and humble. They will help you – you just have to ask.”