Redefining her destiny: Economedes graduate, STC staff member empowered to break cycles

Photo above: Krystal Guerra got her new lease on life at South Texas College, ultimately leading to her success as a student, dedicated staff member and a recent graduate earning her Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership, making her the first in her family to do so. STC photo credit.

Sara Reyna, South Texas College Communication

Krystal Guerra got a new lease on life at South Texas College, ultimately leading to her success as a student, dedicated staff member and a recent graduate earning her Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership.

“STC is my life, it has been my saving grace,” said the 36-year-old. “I was at rock bottom before finally deciding to change my life. As a first-generation college student with no help and having to break free of everything and everyone who was holding me back, it was far from an easy journey.” 

In 2005, following her high school graduation from Economedes High School in Edinburg, Texas, Guerra had hopes of being one of the first in her family to earn a college degree. It was during her senior year of high school that she realized this dream was out of her reach due to financial hardships, leaving her with a devastating decision to walk away from her education and ultimately unfolding a rough period in her life. 

“Growing up, college wasn’t even talked about; all that mattered was finding a job to make ends meet, especially since we didn’t have much money,” Guerra said. “Senior year, everyone was talking about going off to college, but it wasn’t something that anyone in my life encouraged me to do. I didn’t have any financial support, much less know how to get started. Against my own wishes, I got a job following my high school graduation, but I was not fulfilled. Deep down I knew I could be the first in my family to earn a college degree.” 

With unwavering hope in her heart, Guerra was determined to push past the financial challenges that stood in her way. However, her journey did not come without some obstacles.

“I tried my hardest to prove something to myself by attempting college in 2007, however there were people in my inner circle who convinced me that my goals were not only unattainable, but that I wasn’t deserving of them,” Guerra said. “It steals your faith when you come from a struggling background and you’re craving more in life, but you’re constantly being controlled or told that you can’t do something or that you’re undeserving of a good life. I began to believe it. I was being instilled with doubt, anger and unable to control my narrative. This prolonged my ability to pursue my degree because I started struggling mentally and emotionally on top of trying to find resources to pay for this dream.”

Emotionally reflecting on her journey, Guerra shared how hitting rock bottom and spending 11 years at STC helped her climb out of the darkness that she once dwelled in, igniting a brighter path filled with promising opportunities.

“In 2018, I finally made the decision to make a change by separating myself from all things that were holding me back. I wanted to make my redemption story a reality. No matter where I was in my darkness, I knew I needed to break the cycle of negativity and poverty. It was going to start with me,” Guerra shared. “I started working for the college and I can truly say that STC’s faculty and staff quickly became my support system. They had visions for me that I never saw for myself. It took a lot of self-work too, through therapy and living a healthier lifestyle, I was beginning to feel like a brand-new person. This institution singlehandedly empowered me to keep going.”

Now, six years after making that pivotal decision, Guerra has marked numerous milestones, including her decade-long dedication as a valued staff member at the Mid-Valley campus, and more recently her achievement of earning a bachelor’s degree. She attributes her newfound life entirely to the lifeline that STC extended to her.

“STC not only supported me financially by helping me pay for school, but it also became my lifeline, lifting me from dark places,” Guerra said. “This institution has opened so many doors and provided mentorship, helping me discover more about myself. Now, as an empowered graduate, I am committed to serving my STC community, offering the same support that I received. STC will forever be my root and my home, a place where I will continue to build my empire, break cycles of poverty and foster generational wealth through knowledge and hard work.”