Student, mother, dreamer: Scholarship opens doors for Rachel Cordero

Rachel Cordero (Photo by Jim MacKenzie)

Not long ago, Rachel Cordero was a divorced mother of two young children facing the aftermath of a difficult marriage, devastating economic dislocation, and an unknown future.

Her sons struggled to adjust to their parents' breakup. The shattered family moved into Cordero's mother's home to plan their next move.

"I figured I could either go straight to work and barely pay the rent," she remembers, "or look for a way to make a better life for myself and my family. I decided to go back to school and realize my dreams."

Returning to community college years after she had first started, she received an A.A. degree and transferred to UCSC. Today, she is on track to graduate with a B.A. in psychology and plans to pursue a graduate degree and a career in organizational or clinical work. The future looks bright.

Success did not come easy, though.

"I'm not a 'normal' student," Cordero says. "As a parent, I'm rushing from campus to pick up my kids from school, start dinner, and get them going on their homework. . . . Sometimes it gets lonely being the only parent in a classroom of younger students."

But with help from campus advisers and motivation from inspiring professors, "I'm making it work," she says, enthusiastically.

Cordero got a major boost last year when she was one of 34 undergraduates selected for a $3,000 Alumni Association Scholarship Fund award. The coveted scholarships are given to students with demonstrated financial need and the ability to overcome obstacles to higher education. Getting the renewable award was "validation that I'm worth it," says Cordero, and allows her to mesh family obligations with the demands of her senior year: an internship, graduate school applications, a full course load, and "continuing to be a 100 percent focused mom."

Donations to the UCSC Alumni Association Scholarship Fund provide support for motivated students such as Cordero, and may be made at