UH-D senior overcomes obstacles to earn college degree

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Many students are getting ready to graduate from college and move into the next phase of their lives. For University of Houston-Downtown senior Crisia Morales, reaching that achievement was a long and winding journey.

Morales' first challenge came early, when she became a mother at just 15.

"When I had my daughter at such a young age, everyone I knew wrote me off as a statistic - another young Hispanic teenager, without a high school diploma, husband or future," said Morales. "Because of their disapproval, I was all alone in the hospital with Emily, just hours after her birth. It was the two of us against the world and I promised her then that I would do everything - including the impossible - to give her a wonderful life."

But the hardship of teenage motherhood and unwelcome judgments didn't deter the young mother's dream of getting an education. She pushed through high school, graduated and enrolled in classes at Lone Star College- Cy-Fair.

Morales then gave birth to her second child, and that seemed to only renew her commitment to education. But more battles still lied ahead. Doctors discovered a tumor on her salivary gland and she had to go under the knife to get it removed. She thought she'd put it behind her, but the mass returned, forcing her to undergo additional surgery and treatment.

"I am now a strong believer that God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers," she said.

Despite the setbacks, Morales, now 24, will be among the more than 1,400 students walking across the stage December 20 at at Minute Maid Park to collect her degree.

"Crisia Morales sets the bar when it comes to following your dream and setting your own course in life," said Bill Flores, Ph.D., president of UHD. "Like many students at UHD who sacrifice greatly to earn their diplomas, she made the most of the resources she had to create a new life for herself and her family."

Morales says the next chapter in her journey will send her back to the classroom. But this time, she will be the one standing at the front of it, as a bilingual first grade teacher at Treasure Forest Elementary in Spring Branch Independent School District.

"Everything happens for a reason," she said. "If it wasn't for the tough challenges I went through at an early age, I wouldn't be the strong woman I am today. It hasn't been easy, but it has definitely been worth it. I am living proof that with a strong will, perseverance, dedication and effort, anything is possible."
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