‘A Good Example’

Daughter to Follow Mother at NMC

Lorena and Karyme Cruz-Barcenas

As the oldest of seven children in a migrant farm working family, there was always something for Lorena Cruz-Barcenas to do after school, from helping with the apple harvest to minding her younger brothers and sisters.

While it was important to her parents that Cruz-Barcenas, (right, with her daughter Karyme) attend school, and the family settled in northern Michigan permanently as she entered high school in Elk Rapids, “further education was just not talked too much about, that I recall,” said the 1996 high school graduate.

Fast-forward 25 years. Now 42, Cruz- Barcenas, who enrolled at NMC last fall, is not just talking, but walking the talk of higher education for her own five children.

“As an adult doing the NMC classes, it’s just different, the way I see education,” she said. “The learning experience, how important it is.

“I am hoping to be a good example for them.”

It seems to be working. Karyme, a 2021 Elk Rapids graduate, is planning to join her mother as a student this coming fall.

Cruz-Barcenas is also providing a lesson in perseverance. She started at NMC in 2010, but stopped out after her two youngest children were born. With her older children pitching in around the house, she picked up jobs here and there. But last fall, uncertain of the impact of COVID-19, she and husband Camerino Barcenas decided she would leave her night shift job in order to be home, should their kids revert to virtual school.

Being home meant she could return to school herself. Cruz-Barcenas also knew she needed to look ahead. With her older children likely to be leaving the household, she’ll need a day-shift job.

“I need to focus on something that will work with my two little ones,” she said. She’s pursuing an associate’s degree in business administration and made the spring semester Dean's List.

Her return to NMC also allows her to take advantage of Futures for Frontliners, a state program that pays in-district tuition for students who were frontline workers during the first months of the pandemic. But more than job skills, Cruz-Barcenas seeks education for bigger reasons. She wants to explore the vistas before her.

“Education is one thing that is important to do for ourselves. Not to please anybody else," she said.

“It’s for me. I will do this. I will accomplish this.”

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Not A Frontliner?

NMC’S Got That Covered, Too

Other programs and more than 650 scholarships are available to help working adult students pay for a degree or certificate, which in turn enables them to move into higher-paying jobs or change careers.

Michigan Reconnect is one such statewide program aimed at filling the state’s skills gap by helping adults over age 25 earn a degree or certificate. The Grand Traverse region is home to more than 19,000 adults over age 25 who do not have a degree.

They’ll find themselves at home at NMC, where one-quarter of the student body was 25 or older in fall 2019. Students who received scholarships received an average award of $1,213, further reducing NMC’s already low in-district tuition, the eighth-lowest among Michigan’s 28 community colleges.

Online classes and support services that Cruz-Barcenas took advantage of are available to all NMC students.

Get started at nmc.edu/adult-students.