SAN JOSE -- Lucia Sanchez calls her path to graduation from San Jose State University a "journey."
"I never thought I would make it here," Sanchez said.
She grew up on the east side of San Jose, graduated from Yerba Buena High School and enrolled at DeAnza College.
But, 15 years ago, she had to drop out for economic reasons.
"I had to choose between being a full-time student and working," she said.
She says the high cost of living in Silicon Valley is why she postponed her education.
She became an elementary school secretary and after-school program director.
The pandemic, surprisingly, had a positive effect on her long-simmering desire to go back to school.
"There was an explosion of online classes after the pandemic and I feel like it made it possible for people like me to really pursue an education," Sanchez said.
Lucia got her AA degree from DeAnza then enrolled at SJSU Online, a new post-pandemic program at San Jose State that allows students to complete their bachelor's degree just the same as in-person students.
It's the same faculty, curriculum and accreditation but 100 percent online.
"During the pandemic, we had over one thousand faculty here went through professional development to really learn the best practices in online education," said Ron Rogers, vice provost at San Jose State University.
The program is growing and it's perfect for students who just need a few more units or a nudge to complete their education.
"We have high-impact, high-quality courses with the online learner in mind. This is not a haphazard arrangement. It's been built specifically for them," Rogers said.
2023 marks the first year students have graduated from the program.
Sanchez was able to continue to work her day job and study with her online cohort at the same time.
She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.
But that's not the end of the story.
She has been accepted into a combination online and in-person master's degree program at Harvard University.
"Harvard, here I come!" Sanchez said.
She is the first to graduate from college in her family. She also hopes to get her doctorate degree and go into education.
With her lifelong goal of getting a college degree now realized, her new dream is to help the next generation of students realize their dreams.
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