A few years ago, Alison De la Concepcion was not even planning on going to college. Now, she is graduating with a degree in family studies and looking toward a master’s program.

Her journey was not easy.

Raised in a military family, De la Concepcion travelled across the country throughout her young life. She heard of the University of New Mexico for the first time when her father received a deployment in Albuquerque, but she was hesitant to enroll.

“At first, I didn’t want to go to college. I was against it,” she said.

When her mother passed away when she was 16, De la Concepcion had to take on many family responsibilities, like taking care of her younger siblings.

Ultimately, college was not a choice for De la Concepcion, she said, as her dad gave an ultimatum. Her options: enroll in the military or go to college.

In Fall 2014, she found herself on UNM grounds, taking classes with the financial assistance of family members.

That first year, she was reluctant, she said. But, after taking her first Family Studies class, she fell in love with the program.

The program, De la Concepcion said, gave her the means to grow from her life experiences.

“UNM has given me the chance to share my story,” she said, noting classes have given her the opportunity to take life challenges and turn them into something different.

“It’s not always going to define me — that I can make it into a career and make it into something positive to help someone else,” she said.

By Fall 2018, De la Concepcion is hoping to enroll in a master’s program to reach her goal of becoming a counselor.

She hopes to help people the same way her mother did.

“I aspire to be half the person my mom was,” she said, adding she wants to be “the oldest daughter that she is looking down on and proud of always.”

Family still plays a large role in De la Concepcion’s life. She said her two younger sisters, who she helped raise growing up, were her main inspiration to graduate, and she hopes to be a role model for them.

Though she is looking to continue her education outside of Albuquerque, De la Concepcion knows she will return to the city, hopefully working to combat homelessness and helping families grow from challenges.

De la Concepcion said she hopes her fellow Lobos can grow, like she did, from their obstacles and “find triumph in tragedy by the power of education.”

Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.