Coming from a family with little opportunities, Melissa Gauna says she and her family overcame barriers in order to become successful.

As the second to attend college in her family, Melissa has overcome significant obstacles as she fought hard to complete her bachelors and master’s degree. Now she looks to the future, and says she sees the light at the end of tunnel as she begins her doctorate in Leadership Studies from Our Lady of the Lake University.

Through Gauna’s success, she feels STC has provided her with the studies and knowledge needed to continue moving forward in her academic journey.

“STC really opened quite a few doors for me,” she said. “Not only has the college provided me with the studies that I needed, but are also so good about providing pathways that I think students sometimes don't realize are there.”

Melissa reflects on her background and the support of her parents as keys to her success. Raised in a family of nine, Melissa says she and her siblings always looked to their mom and dad as a source of inspiration despite their own limitations. Her father had a ninth grade education, and her mother had a first grade education.

These days, Melissa says she has a hard time believing how far she has come, but feels that she was able to become the leader she was set out to be with support from her family and friends.

“My mom would always try to help us as kids with our homework, and even though she only spoke Spanish, my mom tried her best to help us no matter what,” Gauna said. “Now aside from my kids pushing me and encouraging me to finish, I'd have to attribute my success to my dad. He was a real strong believer in education and he always set us in the right direction. Definitely making school a priority for all of us.”

Gauna came back to South Texas College in 2010 to put pen to paper after taking some time off to care for her family and kids.

Gauna completed her associate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from STC followed by her bachelor’s degree in Medical and Health Services Management, which prepares graduates for a management position in a health care or medical facility. Potential jobs that come from the Medical and Health Services field are hospital administrator, medical systems administrator, and medical and health services manager.

Gauna then received inspiration to keep going and achieve her master’s degree in Health Care Administration from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in May 2018.

Currently, Gauna is a faculty member at STC working with the Medical Assistant Technology Program.

“I love what I do. I love taking the knowledge that I have and bringing it to the classroom,” Gauna said. “The time I spend in front of the classroom is what I find rewarding.”

While Gauna enjoys teaching in the classroom, she is also taking the next step forward in academia to eventually reach her ultimate goal.

Gauna is in her second semester at Our Lady of the Lake online and says she is determined to continue hitting the books and finish her doctorate degree.

“When people tell me, ‘I can't believe you're enrolled in a PhD program.’ I sometimes don't believe it myself,” Gauna said. “I’m barely in my second semester, so I'm still in awe of it all.”

“I feel accomplished with just the mere fact that I enrolled in the program and was accepted, but I know I have four long years ahead of me.”

After everything is said and done, Gauna’s career goal is to continue teaching. She would like to continue teaching in a masters or doctoral program.

Gauna has a powerful message for students who are trying to accomplish their goals.

“I tell my students, ‘It's never too late.’ I started later in life, that's just the way it planned out for me, and it's worked out pretty good so far,” Gauna said. “They need to get their foot in the door, once they're there, they can see the benefits of coming to school and completing an education.”