Jessica Gamez ’11, was no stranger to Alverno when she enrolled at the College in 2007. She practically grew up at the school – attending the daycare facility and even visiting the classroom – while her mom, Maria Gamez ’92, was earning a degree in clinical psychology.

“I started on the degree path in 1986 after my husband was diagnosed with leukemia,” explains Maria. “Our survival plan included moving closer to the College so I could attend classes and still be close enough to check on him. It was less than two years into my studies that I found out I was pregnant with Jessica.”

Maria – the first and only in a family of 11 siblings to graduate from college – attributes the educational journey to opening her eyes to everything in the world. “It was after starting college that I recognized my quest for knowledge. I’ll never be that simple-minded young woman again.”

She remained in school after Jessica was born, and graduated from Alverno with honors before earning a master’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Maria continued into the doctoral program at UW-Milwaukee, stopping just short of dissertation to pursue a job opportunity.

“I was approached by a professor who mentioned I would be a perfect fit for a director position at Latino Health, which is now Hispanic Health Organization,” explained Maria. “I had always been active with health organizations and involved with women’s issues, so it was a great fit. I had passion for the work I was doing, plus I was doing something good for the Latino community.”

She led the organization for several years before starting her own consulting business, Bilingual Communications & Consulting, in 2000. The business provided a wide range of services, including an interpreter training program. Her clients included the State of Wisconsin Workforce Development, and Maria estimates that she trained more than 350 people since the program was developed.

While she’s met tremendous success in her professional career, Maria takes great joy in her accomplishments as a mother. Jessica is one of Maria’s two children and while her path to Alverno was quite different than her mom’s, there are still many similarities the two amazing women share.

Jessica arrived as a student at Alverno in 2007; she shares it was actually one of the last colleges she visited during the selection process. While growing up, she had heard all the great things about the school but wanted complete control over choosing the college that made the most sense for her.

“I thought about it for a long time … all the things I loved about Alverno,” explains Jessica. “Like the smaller class sizes and the individualized attention, and I made the decision to come here. And I’m glad I did because I gained confidence and learned how to take my passion and ambition and use it for something that was meaningful.”

After graduating from Alverno in four years, Jessica began a year of service as a Wisconsin Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA, coordinating the service learning initiative at Waukesha County Technical College. It was a one-year commitment that has provided Jessica with professional experience before she starts graduate studies at Concordia University in fall 2012.

Like her mom, Jessica has the desire to mentor and encourage women, especially first-generation students. She currently finds time in her busy schedule to return to Alverno where she volunteers as an Alum Mentor. In addition, after earning a master’s degree in Student Personnel Administration, she plans to work in a university setting where she will play an active role in student life activities.

One thing is certain, Jessica has been taught since an early age to believe in herself, and stay positive through whatever life throws your way. However, learning flows upward, too. Jessica is a continual reminder to Maria that, “Age doesn’t matter. If you are passionate and focused, you can fulfill your dreams and accomplish anything.”

Click on the most recent President’s Report to read more amazing stories like the one featuring Jessica & Maria.