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Latina mothers, daughters and the pursuit of higher education -- together

Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Parenting News

LOS ANGELES -- Cindy R. Escobedo's college years have been, in many ways, shaped by her mother's.

When Cindy completed an undergraduate degree in political science at UCLA in 2015, she followed her mother, Cecilia, who had earned her bachelor's degree at Azusa Pacific University a year earlier.

In 2016 Cindy graduated with a master's degree in education. Her mother caught up one year later, obtaining her master's in nursing. And in 2021, the same year Cecilia's doctorate in nursing practice was conferred, Cindy successfully defended her own dissertation and her degree was also conferred.

On June 11, Cindy will walk at UCLA's graduation in full doctoral regalia, and her novel dissertation — born of her own story — captures what it took to reach this milestone. Cindy chronicled the aspirations, challenges and joys of Latina mothers and daughters who pursued college degrees together.

Cindy identified nine working-class mother-daughter families consisting of 22 women — all but three of whom attended college in California at the same time. Some are one mother, one daughter, while others are triads like the Escobedo women — Cecilia and daughters Cindy and Abigail. The mothers are largely immigrants — from Mexico, Peru, Belize, Guatemala — while all but one of the daughters U.S. born.

But beneath the joy of achievement are complex journeys because for every mother who made sacrifices on the way to her degree, so too did her daughter.


For mothers, it meant balancing school nights and full-time jobs, straining to be there for family moments while succeeding as nontraditional students. For daughters, it meant caring for younger siblings while mom studied, becoming an extra pair of eyes on mom's essays and explaining meetings with academic counselors while trying to flourish academically on their own.

What distinguishes Cindy's research is how she delves into an uncharted area, said Dolores Delgado Bernal, a professor at Cal State L.A. who served on her dissertation committee.

She identified a collaborative and collective educational journey in which "educating oneself is educating the family," Delgado Bernal said. The mother-daughter duos defy the stereotype of "higher education being hierarchical and being individualistic. It's the opposite."

As Cindy writes in her dissertation: "This birth story is not crafted as a romanticized, feel-good tale about Chicana/Latina mother-daughter relationships. Rather, it is a complex narrative about Chicana/Latina mother-daughter struggle, resistance, love, and healing that transcends between generations of women who attended college individually and jointly."


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