Fear is a liar, that’s what Jocabed Garduño '16 kept telling herself. Fear is nothing more than a wrong-minded attempt to sidetrack your goals, infringe upon your joy, weaken your heart. It had no place in the life of a young woman with a persistent smile and lust for life, yet there it was. What was she going to do with it?

She could accept it and all of the feelings of inadequacy that flowed from the destructive swath it cut and begin to forget about this college thing. Or, she could swift-kick fear unceremoniously to the curb, giving it marching orders out of her college life. With some help from her faculty and friends, Garduño chose the latter.

It’s understandable, and regrettable, that a first-generation American and first-generation college student has to confront fear unlike most other undergrads. Garduño had never envisioned going to college while in high school in San Diego, California. The youngest daughter of Mexican-born parents, Elena and Enrique, she thought she’d stay and work near home and only considered Hope after by picking up a college guidebook by chance while walking out of her guidance office one day. In Colleges That Change Lives, Garduño found a school with a name that matched her own outlook on life. With Hope, she liked what she read; from photos on the internet, she liked what she saw. She applied, and by faith, visited before being accepted.

Fear was not an issue at first when she moved 3,000 miles from home to Hope. “I moved into Scott Hall pumped and full of energy,” she said, recalling her first Hope memory to the Women of Color Celebration audience. “My roommate Miriam walked into the doorway, we squealed and ran into each other’s arms. We had actually only contacted each other about two times before then.”

But two weeks into her first semester, Garduño, a Spanish major, started falling behind in school. She was working up to 18 hours a week to help pay her tuition bills, pouring herself into her studies, but still her grades were suffering. On top of that, she spent little time with her peers. “My friends saw me as studious and smart; they didn’t know I was getting C’s and D’s on tests,” she confided.

“How did I think I could take college on?” she continued in her speech. “Hard work paid off in high school, but college is a whole other playing field. I’m a first generation college student but after sometime I felt that I was not fit for this. The feeling of inadequacy became a wall and I started to fulfill the stereotypes set for ‘people like me.’”

Fortunately, with help from the Academic Support Center and her advisor, Dr. Charles Green, Garduño’s became a fear-conquerer by the end of that first year. Yes, the fear of inadequacy made her question her place in higher education, but she fought and slayed the fearsome fear-dragon, “finding myself again.” What she discovered was that she was capable of becoming a research presenter (on the impact of the Dream Act on American society), an assistant to the director of the Phelps Scholars Program, a teaching assistant for Spanish drill classes, and a founding member of the GROW Advocacy Council. Because of all of this, Vanessa Greene, director of multicultural education, describes Garduño as being “very courageous and bold but with a soft heart.”

“One thing that I really learned is that if you put everything on your own strength and your own ability, you are so limited,” Garduño realizes. “But when you put your trust in hope and faith and know that God is going to provide everything along the way, then you fulfill our dreams before we know it. It may seem difficult but by the time you’re done, you won’t even realize it. You don’t know what you are capable of until you push yourself. The end will come (she snaps her fingers) like that.”

Now Garduño, with a servant’s soul, wants to foster holistic growth wherever she lands after her recent graduation. “I hope to serve the underserved in my community. I’m not sure yet how, but it’s going to happen,” she says confidently.

And she will, fear not.

Read more profiles from the Women of Color and Senior Recognition Celebration