Are you thinking about going back to school to pursue your associates, bachelors, masters or doctorate degree? Is it constantly on your mind, every single day? Then I suggest you saddle up and pursue the thing that scares you the most. That is what I did. The thought of obtaining and going further with my education was a relentless thought, I constantly contemplated on what I wanted to be when I “grew up”.

I completed my undergrad at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. I went back to the reservation and I started working at the Public Health Program; working for my community was the perfect place to be. My supervisor at the time was very passionate about Public Health, she still is, and working with her I was amazed at how everything comes together in public health. If you aren’t familiar, public health is “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts of society” (Acheson, 1988; WHO). I contemplated for quite some time on choosing a career path, because I aspired to be so many things and I craved challenges. Amidst the whole contemplation phase, I became a mother and I was blessed with a beautiful daughter who I love so dearly. After becoming a mother, I started to make sense of the path I wanted to take.

Fast-forward to 2018, I did what I felt was daunting, I submitted my application to graduate school. After hitting the submit button, there were many thoughts in my mind of uncertainty, rejection and self-doubt. A few weeks later I received a letter of acceptance to the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. I had many mixed emotions, it was bittersweet, because the path I was choosing was very foreign to me and, I had my then two-year-old daughter to consider and care for, but I dived into the unknown head first.

I started grad school in the spring of 2019, and my first semester was smooth sailing. Oh boy, after semester one, the rest of my time at grad school was intense, to the point of wanting to surrender. I constantly questioned myself, what did I get myself into? Can I do this? Is this worth it? Being a single mom, working a full-time job, enrolled in a graduate program and becoming a teacher during the pandemic had its own challenges, and of course coming from a traditional family and being a Pueblo woman is also no easy role. Knowing my identity as an individual and the core values my late grandparents, Joe and Florinda Gachupin, instilled in my family kept me grounded. I persevered and stayed resilient because at one point, my ancestors prayed and fought for me to be where I am today and who I am today. My Indigenous ways of knowing allowed me to be resilient through all the challenges, fears and doubts I faced. Each day I am thankful for my family, especially my mother, because of her positive nurturing, she instilled the tools I needed for this life I am living. My father also had his own ways of instilling the tools I needed to be where I am at today.

Why am I telling you my story? My hope is that it inspires you to do more, and be more because we are all capable. I took the path of more resistance because I knew it was daunting, I knew it would challenge me, but I didn’t know life would throw other curve balls amid grad school. I have learned over the years that life is never static, and sometimes the universe has a way of sending you messages, especially when life may be stagnant for us.

I will continue with some advice, my top key takeaways from my own personal experiences, if you’re considering going back to school, it doesn’t matter who you are, I just hope my advice helps one person in this world. Before you read on and take my advice, step back and examine your own life because we are all living a different timeline, and keep in mind, there is no “right way” to live your life.

  1. Find your support

It’s no denying that you will have a lot on your plate as you take on the next chapter of your life. Too often, as humans, we tend to think that in order to accomplish something is taking it all upon yourself. I think majority of the load of grad school, I took on myself, but I had a support system. I needed a support system, my parents and siblings supported my daughter and I through this accomplishment. Especially if it was crunch time for assignment deadlines and exams. Find a true support system, one that will work with you and not against you.

  1. Sacrifice

You will need to make some sacrifices while on the path to earning and attaining your educational goals. The sacrifice may sound monumental, but no matter what, whatever path you choose for yourself the time will still pass you by. I always did my best to change my perspective to be more positive. Having a positive outlook creates less resistance in what you need to do to attain your goals. Don’t lose sight of why you started on the path and forget about the guilt because there will be many moments you will need to choose your reading, homework and class over your family time. The positive to sacrificing is that it is only temporary, but the reward is so much greater, and I will get to that.

  1. Failure

There will be moments where you will feel like a failure, whether that is with your homework, being a parent, colleague, or simply being human. Without failure, we wouldn’t be able to learn and grow from anything, and if you want to succeed you will have to fail at something. It’s all about how you handle your failures and how you persevere. As humans, we tend to overlook and overthink, so be gentle to yourself as you maneuver through your path of more resistance.

  1. Make personal wellness a priority

When you’re juggling school, work, being a parent, and all other roles or titles you may hold, it is important to continue to make yourself a priority. There will be nights you will need to choose sleep over homework or reading. Days where you will choose self-care, and I suggest you schedule in self-care in your planner, but of course when feasible, just don’t forget that you matter too. Those small ounces of self-care will take you a long way because you will be overwhelmed, stressed and overworked. If you’re not caring for yourself on your journey, how do you expect to reach your destination?

  1. Hard work pays off

Throughout the journey, keep your eye on the prize. Don’t lose sight of why you started and let those reasons be what keeps you grounded. The journey to earning your degree may seem extensive but when you achieve your goal all the work and sacrifice will be worth the accomplishment. Today, I am able to look back to the many times I wanted to give up and put my goals and dreams on the back burner, but I am proud of my resilience. If you give up, make some room to learn and grow from that, but remember, you can always start where you left off.

As a parent going back to school, there are many positive outlooks for your children as well. Pursuing your own educational endeavors will also set up your own children for success because you’ll be serving as the guide for their own education. We know that children are like sponges, what they see, hear and learn stays with them. Lastly, think of going back to school as an investment to yourself and to your family. Investing in yourself will more than likely be money well spent. I invested in myself, and not until the end of my path of more resistance did I see the bigger picture. All the stuggles, hardships, challenges, and wanting to lay next to my daughter and fall asleep with her, was all worth the sacrifice and the rewards are monumentally astounding. I share my story with you because it is inherent in us as Indigenous peoples to tell and share your stories, in hopes that it will teach those around you that we are all capable to do what we set our minds to. I challenge you to invest in yourself, to get outside your comfort zone, because only then will you grow and become the best version of yourself.



Public health services. World Health Organization. (2021). Retrieved 2 April 2021, from