A photo of Gladys Guevara with her son at Disney Land.Gladys Guevara is the definition of perseverance, pushing through obstacles to earn three college degrees.

This spring, Guevara graduated from San Bernardino Valley College with her associate’s degree in human services and a certificate in addiction studies. This is her second stint at SBVC — nearly a decade ago, this first-generation college student earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts and social behavioral science, and in 2017, she received her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton.

“I remember walking from my elementary school to San Bernardino Valley College, and it was really amazing to me,” Guevara, a Colton native, said.

 Growing up, Guevara enjoyed playing school with her friends and leading arts and crafts projects, and her original career plan was to become a teacher. Instead, she started working as a behavioral therapist, but her plans were derailed in 2019 when she was in a motorcycle accident. Guevara survived, but the driver did not.

Before getting on the motorcycle, Guevara and the driver were drinking excessively, and the accident was a wakeup call. During her recovery, Guevara used a wheelchair and was limited in where she could go, but one place that was easy to get to was SBVC. She enrolled in classes again and joined the CalWORKs program.

“The professors were always so helpful,” Guevara said. “Even though it was hard, it was therapeutic. They were like a family, and I knew they were there for me. They didn’t judge me or put me down; they asked if they could help me, and if I needed anything.”

Through CalWORKs, Guevara, a single mom of two, received cash aid and groceries, as well as a job at the San Manuel Stadium. She is now a cook and concessions worker at the stadium, and manages new hires, guiding them through their duties.

“I love it here,” Guevara said. “It’s like a family.”

Guevara is also working a paid internship as a counselor, leading classes over Zoom for individuals who have had DUIs.

“Maybe I’m the one that’s going to help them think twice before they drink and drive again,” she said. “They might have it in the back of their mind, ‘My counselor almost died and someone else did die.’ There’s a personal connection; you always hear about it on the news, but never think it’s going to happen to you.”

After graduation, Guevara will finish her addiction counseling hours for licensing, and she has already secured full-time work once this step is completed. She has learned the importance of asking for help, and plans to impart this to the individuals she will be working with.

“A lot of the time, we think that we’re independent, but you can be independent while still getting help,” Guevara said. “That’s what makes you stronger. You can still decide whether you want the help or not, but at least knowing there is help out there makes it so you never feel like you’re alone.”