The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Regla Baez watched her parents and those around her struggle just to get by. She wanted a different life for her future and knew she needed to surpass her parents’ ninth grade education and graduate high school.
Proud to be the first in her family to graduate high school, Regla learned that a diploma still wasn’t enough. No one around her was pursuing a college education so it didn’t seem necessary at the time. But finding herself pregnant at age 20, she was soon lugging a heavy stroller on and off two buses to get to a retail job that didn’t and would never provide enough income for herself and her daughter. It was in those moments on the bus platform, literally weighed down by this laborious routine, that she knew she needed to do something different. “This just wasn’t going to work anymore. I don’t want my daughter to think this is a way of life.”
To secure a more consistent work schedule and paycheck than retail provided, Regla obtained an entry level position with SPIN, an organization in Northeast Philadelphia serving individuals with developmental disabilities. As a single mom, however, the need for immediate earnings demanded her full attention and she couldn’t focus on continuing her education. But Regla started noticing positions open up within the organization, and they all required a degree.
During her tenure with SPIN, Regla started and stopped out of a few college programs, largely online. She acquired some college credits, but had not completed a degree. And with expensive online classes and no guidance about how financial aid worked, Regla had exhausted available grants and loans.
Learning about the ACE program through a parishioner of the Deliverance Partnership Site, she found a perfect fit for her situation. Regla could attend class two nights per week and be in a face to face learning environment. She used tuition reimbursement benefits from her job to pay for classes and then paid off an affordable balance. She appreciated being in class with other adult learners who were investing in themselves while balancing family, work and school. Further, Regla was able to apply all previously earned credits to her Harcum degree.
It was not easy, but Regla pushed through drawing on her own personal strength and determination, and the inspiration of being a role model to her (now) two daughters.
Currently, Regla is the Director of Human Resources at SPIN, having worked her way up from an initial position as a Direct Support Professional. This past year, she boldly and successfully led the talent acquisitions team through the transition from an in-person to a virtual recruiting environment as necessitated by co-vid. Eight classes short of a bachelor’s degree, she is committed to finishing by 2022. No doubt she will make it happen. What she has already accomplished through her life should be celebrated – breaking the cycle of the struggle she witnessed growing up. In her Mom’s footsteps, Regla’s eldest daughter is enrolled in college and on her own path to success.