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    Transfer Student Profile: Claudia Vanessa Hernadez Marquez

    April 21, 2017
    Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez never thought she’d attend college. Now a senior, she serves as a role model for incoming freshmen and plans to pursue her master’s degree.

    Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez, senior, social sciences

    If you had asked her at the age of 11 where she would be at age 21, Claudia Vanessa Hernandez Marquez says she would never have seen herself as a senior in college. “I’m the sixth of seven children, and my siblings never graduated from high school. They started working to help support the household. That’s what I saw as my future. I thought I’d drop out at 16 and help my parents and work. That was my mindset—I thought there was nothing else.”

    But during middle school in Rock Springs, Wyo., she discovered GEAR UP, a U.S. Department of Education program that stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

    “They kept reminding me each month that college was a possibility,” Hernandez Marquez says. “They took me on my first visit to a college. They showed me applications and financial aid and the steps I needed, because I didn’t have the role model. In my junior year, I realized it was really a possibility. There were so many scholarships out there that could help me. My senior year, I applied to Western Wyoming Community College.”

    During her time at WWCC, she saved the money and took the test to become a U.S. citizen, which qualified her for a federal GEAR UP scholarship. After earning her associate degree, Hernandez Marquez transferred to UW, and she will graduate in December 2017. She hopes to earn a master’s degree and then work in international social work, specifically in international adoptions.

    “I found transferring here easy because there were people I knew, and there were a lot of resources made available to us as transfer students,” she says. “Everyone has been very inviting. I love that atmosphere.”

    This past summer, Hernandez Marquez attended the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. “The GEAR UP leadership academy is very competitive,” she says. “I don’t think I would have gotten that opportunity if I went elsewhere.”

    Hernandez Marquez also works as a GEAR UP mentor to incoming freshmen and is thankful for the role the program had in her life. “I love being that role model,” she says. She also appreciates the second family UW’s GEAR UP team—including Mel Owen and Jenny Ingram—provides.

    Hernandez Marquez took advantage of UW’s study-abroad opportunities, spending nearly three weeks studying social work in London last summer. “It was life changing,” she says. “It’s these programs that the university has available for people that make it so much better. I encourage people to come to UW. It’s so easy to study abroad, and there are so many opportunities.”