Inspiring grads: Cindy Noguera
Just two weeks after giving birth to her son, Cindy Noguera returned to UIC to finish her first semester of sophomore year.
“I knew I didn’t want to stop going to school because if I would have taken a semester or a year off, it would have been harder for me to go back, and I wanted to graduate in 2021 and have my child by my side,” Noguera said. “I was motivated — I knew I could do it — and that liberated me.”
Still, having a newborn and working on her applied psychology degree wasn’t easy.
“It’s been challenging,” said Noguera, who has a minor in biology. “But when I had my baby, I spoke with all of my professors and they were very supportive. And I’ve trained myself to be focused because I cannot waste any time.”
At first, she had help from her son’s father while she was in class. But after two years, they ended their relationship and she moved back to her parents’ home in Berkeley.
“My ex didn’t think I should seek an education and became very unsupportive,” she said. “I learned my self-worth.”
As UIC transitioned to online learning during the pandemic, Noguera has been able to spend more time at home with her son, Daniel, who’s now 2. She leans on help from her parents and her 15-year-old sister while she focuses on her studies.
Not only did she find balance between school and motherhood, but she also excelled with a 3.7 GPA and asa member of the Honors College. She credits her advisers with helping her map out her classes in a way that would be successful and encouraging her to complete summer courses to stay on track.
She also found support from the Flames Leadership Network, which aims to empower students to reach their fullest potential through coaching and career advising, including staff members Yesenia Villalobos and Elizabeth Houlihan.
“They really helped me — they’ve given me advice and been there for me overall,” she said.
Houlihan, director the Office of First-Year Initiatives, which oversees the Flames Leadership Network, said Noguera is one of the most driven students she has worked with.
“Her work ethic is second to none and her motivation is unparalleled,” Houlihan said. “Cindy refuses to accept what many tell her she cannot do. She is in control of her own narrative and will do whatever it takes to succeed. In the face of adversity, Cindy graciously keeps her head up and moves onward.”
Noguera will be the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree and doesn’t plan to stop there. She will pursue her master’s degree from UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work beginning this fall.
Noguera, who was 19 when she had her son, hopes her future work will help support other teen moms, and plans to focus her career on working with children and families. She currently is finishing up a remote internship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
“I feel proud of myself because I was not able to fulfill the stereotype or statistic that I couldn’t go to college or finish college,” she said. “It’s really important to me that I am financial stable and show my son that education is important.”
Houlihan said she knows that Noguera will “serve as an inspiration to many, including her son.”
“We know that this is only the beginning of many successes to come and we are beyond proud of her accomplishments and know that nothing will stand in the way of her aspirations and future endeavors,” she said.