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Cardenas Navigates Bellevue University Journey

Cardenas Navigates Bellevue University Journey

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Embarking on a new journey into unfamiliar territory can be an intimidating experience. Having some helpful navigators along for the ride can make all the difference.

As the first in her family to attend college, Crystal Cardenas can tell you all about that. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Bellevue University in 2010, and then followed up with a Master of Science in Justice Administration and Crime Management in 2015.

SONY DSC“I am the first person in my family to go to college and I did not have a clue as what I was supposed to do,” Cardenas said. “I spoke to the facilitator, Gina Ponce (Director of the University’s South Omaha Community Outreach), and explained to her my situation and how I thought I was never going to get into college.”

Ponce and Cardenas would collaborate to get the ball rolling on Cardenas’ academic career and throughout her time at the University.

“Gina would check in with me to ensure that I was successful during my college career. She knew my struggle and knew that getting an education was extremely important to me,” Cardenas said.

Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree, Cardenas took some time off before coming back to pursue her master’s degree. Having attended classes for her first degree, the online environment of the Justice Administration and Crime Management program was a new experience.

“I really enjoyed the cohort online learning. I got to know my online peers and we became a small community,” Cardenas said.

“That, to me, was very cool. It was also challenging because it forced me to time manage more effectively and to have my priorities straight.”

Like a lot of students, Cardenas had more to juggle than just school work.

“By the time of my graduation, I had two wonderful children, Valeria and Erick, and I was pregnant with my third child, Valentina,” she said. “The struggle was real and it was every day. The issues with daycare and the children being sick, having to work and managing a home, while still attending college kept me on my toes. I was very lucky to have the support of my husband, Erick, my family, friends and the Bellevue University staff.”

Cardenas is currently a Youth Academic Navigator at the D2 Center, a reengagement center for youth ages 15-21.

“We help the students complete their high school diploma by encouraging them to be successful, by helping them overcome obstacles, by problem-solving and providing information for different resources,” she said. “It is a very rewarding job, where I can make a difference in a youth’s life.”

With two degrees under her belt already, Cardenas’s Bellevue University journey may not be over yet.

“In a few years, I may return to Bellevue University to pursue a Doctorate degree,” she said. “It is such a wonderful university with caring staff who understand the needs of the students.”