Vanessa and Veronica Santana

Mother and daughter to graduate from Cal State LA

The pair studied and took classes together, earning summa cum laude honors

Veronica and Vanessa Santana

By Margie Low | Cal State LA News Service

A mother and daughter will share a proud moment together when they both graduate from Cal State LA.

For the past two years, Veronica Santana and her daughter Vanessa Santana, 24, balanced their time among study, work and family responsibilities to pursue their mutual goal of earning a university degree. They supported each other through study sessions and even took many classes together.

The mother and daughter will each graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services from the Charter College of Education.

Veronica Santana, 46, decided to leave her job as a laboratory assistant more than five years ago and enroll alongside her daughter at East Los Angeles College (ELAC).  

She says she was inspired to fulfill her dream of a higher education to advance her professional opportunities and to improve life for herself and her four children.

“All this has also brought me closer to my children, especially my daughter, who motivated me to work toward a bachelor’s degree,” says Veronica Santana, who lives in Montebello. “I always dreamed of going to college.”

When Vanessa Santana was 18, her mother required emergency surgery that left her responsible for taking care of her three younger brothers for a period of time. She says her brothers are diagnosed with different learning disabilities, requiring speech pathology and educational support.  

That experience spurred her interest in pursuing an academic degree that focuses on providing educational support for students with disabilities to achieve their academic and vocational goals.  

“Having benefited from the support of counselors, I felt a calling to pursue a career in rehabilitation or counseling services,” says Vanessa Santana, who lives in East Los Angeles with her 3-year-old son. “Specifically, I would like to be there helping parents to find solutions for their children to succeed academically.”  

With their renewed aspiration, both mother and daughter encouraged each other to achieve their associate degrees in social and behavioral science from ELAC. From there, they pressed onward and transferred to Cal State LA to further their academic pursuit.

Veronica Santana credits Cal State LA with providing a welcoming environment that enabled her to thrive.

“The best part of being at Cal State LA is feeling that I am right at home—I fit in and the professors don’t look at my age,” she says. “I’m just one of the college students here to learn, and my daughter is my study partner.”

Her daughter noted that she received continuous support from faculty, including Professor Frances Siu in the Division of Special Education and Counseling. “Professor Siu has really made a difference—she speaks from her experience and teaches in a way that students can understand.”  

Both mom and daughter excelled in their studies and made the Dean’s List. They will graduate with summa cum laude honors.

The mother-daughter duo works part time at ELAC’s Disabilities Support Program & Services. They volunteered in community service projects as part of the Rehabilitation Counseling Association, a Cal State LA student organization. They also have donated their time to support a local mariachi band that provides free music lessons and produces charity events for the community.  

After graduating from Cal State LA, both mom and daughter hope to earn a master’s degree in counseling or in social work.

“It has been really special to go through this college journey with my mom,” Vanessa Santana says.

Veronica Santana credits her daughter for helping her achieve her dream of earning a university degree. “She is my rock,” the mother says.