Discover Your Island

Despite Hardships Island University Outstanding Graduate Ashley Tijerina Reaches for Success

December 07, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Sometimes it takes longer to reach your goals than anticipated, but as long as you never give up, you’ll eventually succeed and be stronger for it. This is the motto of Ashley Tijerina, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi outstanding graduate, who will walk the stage during the fall 2017 commencement ceremony. She will receive her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a social work minor and graduate Magna Cum Laude, the second highest level of honors that can be received.

Tijerina, who is also a first-generation college graduate, began her academic journey in the fall of 2009 when she started working towards her associate’s degree in Liberal Arts at Del Mar College (DMC). After learning she was pregnant, she was only more motivated to finish school. She graduated from DMC in fall 2013 before giving birth to her daughter, Blakelyn. Still driven by a commitment to her education, Tijerina came to the Island University in fall 2014 to earn her bachelor’s degree. A single mother, Tijerina knew that she would need to set a good example for her daughter who she wanted to grow up to knowing the importance of higher education and pursuing her dreams.

“My daughter is the reason I am here today,” said Tijerina. “I know my habits and my behavior reflects on her. Sometimes when things are hectic, and I want to throw in the towel, I look at her and it reminds me that I need to keep going because she’s looking up to me.”

Although she had originally set her sights on a nursing degree, Tijerina found her true calling – criminal justice – during a class with Dr. Dorothy McClellan, Regents Professor of Criminal Justice in the College of Liberal Arts. Now she plans on becoming a private investigator after graduation because of this fateful encounter.

“Ever since I took Dr. McClellan’s class I was hooked. I knew exactly what career field I wanted to pursue,” said Tijerina. “The field of private investigation is so broad and I look forward to using the knowledge I have gathered here at A&M-Corpus Christi while gaining new experiences.”

While being a single mom going through college is already a major accomplishment, Tijerina also has many other accomplishments to be proud of, including reaching her goal of graduating from college debt free. She has relied on scholarships, grants and hard work to pay for her classes.

“It’s tempting to want to accept loans because they’re sitting in your account waiting to be used,” said Tijerina. “But I wanted to be debt free when I graduated. I didn’t want my daughter and I to worry about paying the money back. I wanted a fresh start with my new degree.”

For Tijerina, the road to graduation has not been an easy one. With two jobs, a full class load and a daughter, she has had a hectic schedule throughout her college career. Luckily, she has many people who have her back.

“I have a great support system in my mom, my dad, my aunt and my abuela,” said Tijerina. “They have helped me both financially and in encouraging me to never give up on my education. They want me to keep achieving academic success.”

Tijerina says her biggest supporter has been her mother, Wendy Benderman, who, even after working a full day in the Office of Assessment, Accreditation, & Compliance at the University, watched her daughter while Tijerina takes her night classes.

“My mom has helped me in so many ways; she is my backbone. Words cannot describe how much she’s done for me,” said Tijerina.

Tijerina has considered herself an Islander since childhood when she would come to work with her mom and says she never saw herself going anywhere else. She says she is looking forward to maintaining strong ties with the University and engaging with the National Alumni Association.

After many years of hard work, her advice to her fellow Islanders is never to stop fighting for your dreams.

“My academic journey has taken longer than I expected, but I did it,” said Tijerina. “Being persistent pays off. Never give up and strive for success.”