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Graduate honors immigrant parents’ sacrifices with teaching career

March 15, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. — Before they became parents, José and Maria Aguilar made a hard choice. They left behind their family and farm in Mexico, willing to start over to give their future children a better life in the United States.

Because of that sacrifice, and the long hours they’ve worked at a Logansport pork processing plant, their daughter, Jocelyn Aguilar Castro, now teaches first graders after earning a degree in elementary education from Indiana University Kokomo. 

Commencement on May 7 will be an emotional day for the family, as they see the culmination of all their sacrifices when Aguilar Castro crosses the stage to receive her diploma.

“I just know if I look out in the crowd and see their faces, I’m going to start crying,” said Aguilar Castro, who completed her degree in December. “My parents worked hard with their hands so I could work with my brain, and achieve all of my dreams. I’m just very happy to get this far with their support and their love. It really does mean the world to me. 

Her goal has been to make them proud of her, and to honor what her parents have given to make her degree possible.

“There are just so many emotions, so much love,” she continued. “They’re just so proud of me and how I’ve focused on my goals, and worked hard to reach them. They couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing now, and how far I’m going to get.”

While her parents will be in the audience at the Kokomo Event and Conference center, she hopes her first graders at Logansport’s Landis Elementary School will be able to watch the commencement ceremony on livestream, and be inspired to follow her example.

Aguilar Castro is passionate about being a role model to all of her students — especially those who are Latino like her, to show them what is possible.

“I was that kid at one point,” she said. “I know it means a lot to see me and to connect with me on that level, because we came from the same background. They can see from my example that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, and anyone can do it.”

Aguilar Castro has come a long way from her preschool days in Logansport, learning her first English by watching cartoons on television. Her parents moved from Mexico to California before she was born, then followed job opportunities to Logansport, determined that their children would be educated and have better opportunities.

She began her teaching job in the dual immersion language program in August, as part of her student teaching. She and another teacher share two classes of first graders, with Aguilar Castro teaching them math, Spanish language, and science in Spanish, and her co-teacher teaching English language, reading, and social studies in English language.

The program is available not only to native Spanish speakers, but also for children whose parents choose the program, so their children will be bilingual.

Aguilar Castro plans to earn a master’s degree in the future, and would like to be a professor of education to encourage others to do the same.

Coming from a close family, she’s grateful to have the chance to earn a college degree while living at home.

“I’m truly blessed by how everything has worked out in my life,” she said. “Going to college nearby, it was all one big blessing.”

View photos from her classroom

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Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 03/15/2019