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‘I Knew the Repercussions of Leaving': A Student Gave Up One Life to Pursue Another

About This Video

This video is part of a yearlong Chronicle visual series that highlights the challenges facing students from underrepresented and underserved communities. The series is part of the Different Voices of Student Success project, which is supported by the Ascendium Education Group.

The video was shot and edited by Carmen Mendoza, a senior web producer. Michael Theis, photo and media editor, assisted with production. Luna Laliberte, editorial-events coordinator, arranged the interviews. Erica Lusk, senior photo and media editor, directed the project.

When Laurie Jimenez, 28, was thinking about applying to college, she was struggling with internal conflict about the religious organization she grew up in, she recalls. Her values and interests were different, she says, than those of the other members. She did not see any role models around her, and the organization’s requirements and expectations “steered me away from the things I wanted to do in my life.” At age 18, she decided to leave the religion, “even though it was hard, even though it was confusing, and scary … and painful,” to pursue her dreams and goals.

The decision cost her her community, and strained her relationship with her family. But she began figuring out how to live on her own. She enrolled in courses at Northern Virginia Community College, and soon her life was “work and attend class and do homework.” Yet, in spite of the pain she felt over leaving her past behind, it was an exciting time, she says, because “I knew that every class that I took, every exam that I took, was all going to help me build a better future.”

This short film spotlights Jimenez’s story to reflect the kinds of barriers many students must overcome to pursue a college degree: lack of family support, clashing community values, and financial challenges.

Jimenez has earned two associate degrees from NOVA and is currently studying molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale University, where she is part of the Eli Whitney Students Program for nontraditional-age students. Although it took time, Jimenez has repaired her relationship with her parents. She wanted them to be involved, she says, “so that they could see the things I was doing, and so that they could be proud of me.”