When Amy Diane Escamilla sets her mind to something, she gets it done. When the senior psychology major was in high school, she made four goals for herself about her future. 1) Go to college 2) Live in the dorms 3) Join Greek Life 4) Study Abroad. “Looking back, it has not been easy,” she said. “But I am on track to do all four things.”
It has not been without sacrifice. At 14, Escamilla’s mother died from uterine cancer, leaving her in the care of her elderly grandmother, Raquel, who herself was impaired by a stroke.
“Losing my mother is the hardest part of my story,” she said. “I look back and feel proud of myself over the things I have been able to overcome, but it is still painful. When she died, I started taking care of my grandma. I really did not have a childhood anymore.”
The two moved into a one-bedroom apartment, but neither drove. Escamilla recalled carrying groceries or five-gallon bottles of water home from the market while in high school. “Things like that were hard, you know? Being a teenager is hard enough, but not having anyone there for me made it harder,” she said.
When Escamilla was accepted to La Verne, she lived in the residence halls, but checked on her grandmother daily. Her freshman year, she joined Phi Sigma Sigma, which she believes provided her with the sense of ‘sisterhood’ and family she had longed to have. Having to balance expenses, Escamilla knew she had to work. As the first person in her family to go to college, she wanted to be an example, and she refused to let anything get in her way.
Today, Escamilla works four jobs. “As soon as I turned 18, I became an in-home caregiver, helping elderly people,” she said. “It is kind of what I do for my grandma — help them change, take them to the doctor when they need it and cook for them.
“Then I learned I was eligible for federal work study at La Verne, and I started working on campus in the Athletics Department. All my money from there went toward my school expenses. Those two things helped me help my grandma and pay for school, but I still needed money for gas and living expenses.” She applied, was hired and currently works at two restaurants in La Verne.
Despite working more than 40 hours per week on average, Escamilla took an 18-unit-average course load each semester. She also maintained solid grades. “One semester, I had two Cs and was very upset,” she said. “After that I gave myself a reality check and told myself that my schedule could not affect my learning. I am here to be educated.”
In addition to her sorority, Amy is a member of the Psychology Club and the Psi Chi Honor Society. She will graduate in spring 2016. This fall, she will reach her final goal — to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain. “It was hard for my grandmother to let me go,” she said. “But this is something I need to do for myself.”