According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings requiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree will increase by 16.5 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively, through 2016. Having educational opportunities in Collin County to train students to fill these positions is essential. An educated workforce is an asset to McKinney.

But for many Americans, earning a college degree can be especially challenging. From working adults who never finished their degrees and find themselves needing to balance work, family and school, to first-generation students charting their way through the complex world of higher education, the road to a college degree can be rocky.

Casey Rivera Castro became the first member of her family to pursue a college degree.

Photo courtesy of DBU

Casey Rivera Castro became the first member of her family to pursue a college degree.

 

As a young girl growing up in McKinney, Casey Rivera Castro was determined to be the first in her immediate family to graduate from college. For this great-granddaughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, it was never a question of if Casey would go to college, but where.

Casey’s mother was only 17 when Casey was born, and Casey spent much of her childhood watching her single mother work hard to provide for Casey and her sister and brother. Her family felt blessed to have the support of her maternal grandparents and the local church. Casey, who viewed her aunt as a mentor, saw it as her duty to set an example for her younger siblings.

As Casey was researching colleges, her youth pastor at Covenant Church recommended that she visit Dallas Baptist University (DBU). The moment Casey stepped onto the majestic tree-lined campus overlooking Mountain Creek Lake, she knew she had found her college home. The Christ-centered education was exactly what Casey wanted, but since it was a private Christian college, she had no idea how she would afford to attend.

Being financially independent at this point, it would be a challenging first year to find the financial aid and personal funds needed to attend while also learning a system that was foreign to her and her family.

As a first-generation college student, Casey worked hard to apply and navigate through the often-confusing world of financial aid. She faced the challenge with grace and prayer and found, at Dallas Baptist University, caring and supportive faculty and staff who were willing to guide her along the way. During her first year, Casey secured a job on campus and excelled in her studies and employment, earning additional scholarships.

During her freshman year, Casey also met her future husband, J.J. Castro. The two were married this past July, and Casey looks forward to graduating from DBU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication in December. Casey then plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master of Arts degree in management at DBU.

Casey’s faith and determination are turning her dream of earning a college degree into a reality.