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Young parents graduate together at San Jose State University

Couple with young baby graduates together at San Jose State
Couple with young baby graduates together at San Jose State 02:35

Two graduate students at San Jose State University will celebrate completing their master's degrees together on Wednesday - and they'll be accompanied by their infant daughter.

"We told ourselves that no matter what, we were going to finish and that's what we did," said David Salinas, who will receive his M.A. in Counselor Education as a member of the class of 2024 at SJSU. "Taking similar classes, having that support was super helpful, when days I would feel exhausted or I had reached my limit, she would have picked me up and vice versa."

Salinas and his wife, Fernanda Renteria-Gonzalez, say there were many advantages to having a spouse in the same program throughout their time in graduate school. But it also added to the stress at times and making it to the end with a newborn baby was no small feat. 

"It was incredible to have a partner that can relate to the same topics we were talking about, the same classes, having the same classmates, similar projects," said Renteria-Gonzalez, who will also receive her M.A. in Counselor Education from SJSU and take part in the class of 2024 commencement. "It does take a village, and that's something that I don't think you know until you actually have a baby and then you're like 'Wait, it really does take a village.'"

Salinas wants to work with young people who may have come across gangs in their life, or had negative interactions with law enforcement. These students are often counted out on pursuing an education and career, but Salinas know the impact that counselors can have on someone's life from firsthand experience growing up.

Renteria-Gonzalez says mentors and advisors had a similar impact on her as a first-generation student coming from a low-income family. So she wants to help others be the first in their family to gain the level of education that fits them. For this married couple, the master's program at SJSU was ideal for the work they hope to do in their community.

"I think the best part was definitely having someone to have a conversation with every day," she said about completing the degree with her husband. "Only time that I could think of was when we were writing those thesis papers it was a lot so it was like, 'I can hear you typing too loud,' like 'You're typing too loud' or 'You're almost done, I'm not done,' right? So it was a lot of that, like there was someone always there to like compare, like am I doing good enough,"

Salinas agreed and said when their daughter Violenta arrived in early March, she definitely challenged them to do it all at once. But the support of their parents and extended family, along with their teachers and classmates made it all possible. She was born on a Saturday and they still attended a class on Zoom the following Tuesday. Between the two of them, they made sure to only miss one class during the program as they could sit in for each other when one could not make it.  

"Oh my gosh, like am I going too slow? Am I gonna make the deadline? Wait you already started that assignment? Oh man I'm way behind, I haven't even looked at the prompt yet," Salinas recalled. 

But the time spent together as spouses and parents has prepared them to better advise students they anticipate may be in the same situation. Along the way, they had to make sure to take time for themselves and their marriage though. The couple planned dates and always pushed for self-care while in graduate school. 

"You too can pursue your master's and higher education," Salinas said.

 "Take this as an example of, if we can do it, you can do it, and with the support, everything is possible," Renteria-Gonzalez said.

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