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Linda Rivera was looking for a fresh start when she decided to pursue an associate’s degree in education at Triton College. Living outside of the college’s district, Triton soon became her refuge away from the personal troubles that could have distracted her from achieving her goal.

As a single mother, Rivera often struggled with finding a babysitter so she could go to work and attend class. She took care of her father who had a medical condition and also faced the consequences of the incarceration of her older brother. Things didn't get any easier when her grandmother passed away and she lost her job in early 2011. “With all of that going on, it was really hard to concentrate on my main goal, but with the help of everyone at Triton and my family and friends, I got through it,” she said. “At times, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. There were times I wanted to quit.”

But quitting wasn’t an option when there was so much on the line. She kept busy by participating in many student clubs and organizations where she made friends and learned to speak out. Rivera got involved with the student support services program Trio, College Council, Program Board, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), Triton’s Gay & Straight Alliance (TGSA) and served as Triton College Student Association (TCSA) President from 2010-2011. “As president, my role was basically to better the school, make sure the students had a great experience on campus, and to remind them to use every tool accessible to them to make their semester successful.”

It was advice she heeded herself. “I used to be a person who didn’t want to ask for help … I really kept to myself,” she said, describing herself as shy. “But being so involved in various organizations, and having the opportunity to communicate with faculty, I realized they really are here for us. We just need to ask for their help.”

Rivera graduated in May 2011 and is currently studying elementary education at National Louis University in Chicago. She’s looking forward to a successful year, especially since she has another Triton alum there as a mentor. “I feel like I’m taking a part of Triton with me anyway because I have her there as my mentor,” she said. “Triton was my stepping stool to National Louis University… Triton prepared me to be on my own and taught me that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.”