Yesenia2On Saturday, April 30, Yesenia Raygoza ’16 achieved a dream that’s been years in the making. The human services major walked in Bethel College’s adult and graduate studies commencement ceremony. After a summer internship, she will receive her bachelor’s degree – and she will have done so debt-free.

The single mom came to Bethel to make a better life for herself and her family. What she found here was real-life application in every class, caring faculty and a subject matter that she was passionate about.

“As a mom, I wanted a better paying job,” Raygoza says. “I knew I needed a bachelor’s degree. I applied at Bethel and everything went so smoothly — I knew it was meant to be.”

She was able to fully fund her education through Real Services’ Individual Development Account (IDA), grants and her tax refund. The Real Services IDA is “a matched-savings program that helps income-eligible participants save money to buy a home, pursue higher education or start/expand a small business” ( For Raygoza, a $3 match per $1 contributed allowed her to save $6,000 toward her education.

Yesenia Raygoza Family

Yesenia Raygoza ’16, second from right, is surrounded by her mother, son and daughter. She says she couldn’t have pursued her dream if it weren’t for her mother, who cared for her children while she attended classes. “She has been there for us all this time,” she says.

But Real Services provided more for Raygoza than a savings account. When she came to Indiana from Hawaii (where she had worked as a social worker), she found herself in need of assistance … and work. She enrolled in the Community Services Family Development Program as a client, but ended up with a part-time position there.

When a full-time position opened up within Real Services’ transportation department, she jumped at the chance. It was around this same time that her sister, Bethel graduate Isabel (Raygoza) Trinidad ’13, encouraged her to apply to Bethel. Raygoza had her associate’s degree, but she knew that a bachelor’s degree would open doors of possibility for herself and her family.

Going back to college as an adult was a stretching experience for Raygoza, as it is for many of Bethel’s adult students who are juggling work, family and school. But it can also be a motivating factor.

“When you go to school as an adult it is very challenging … but it is also so rewarding in so many ways,” she says. “My two children are my inspiration … this is for them … and also for myself.”

Raygoza wanted to set an example for her children about the importance of education.

“Both of my parents are from Mexico,” she says. “There is no expectation [to] go to college. I will encourage my son and daughter to go to college.”

Raygoza hopes to eventually work with older adults, as she sees that specific demographic as having so much need. Her internship will be completed at Alzheimer’s and Dementia of Indiana, through Real Services and Milton Day Center.

“My desire is to work with people. I would love to work with the geriatric population,” she says.

With the solid preparation Bethel provided, Raygoza is ready to pursue her personal and career goals.

“God had a purpose,” she says. “He had a purpose for me to come here … I feel like I got stronger as a woman. As a mother. In society in general. This [graduation] is very big for me.”


If you or an adult you know is interested in earning a bachelor’s degree, you can learn more by visiting our website. You may even be able to earn college credit for previous training and life experience. Through the PLA (prior learning assessment) Yesenia earned 6 credit hours toward her degree.

Learn about our new Hispanic Initiative, offering bilingual adults a new option for obtaining a college degree. It’s the first program of its kind in the country.