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Herrera sisters find their place at JJC

July 09, 2017

  • Las hermanas (desde la izq.) Andrea, Erika e Itzamar Herrera.
    Sisters, from left, Andrea, Erika and Itzamar Herrera.

(Submitted by JJC) — Itzamar, Erika and Andrea Herrera are sisters, but look so much alike that they often get mistaken for triplets. They share each other’s clothes, try out different sports together (right now it’s tennis), and volunteer at the Spanish Community Center. They argue over chores, take turns mentoring their youngest sister, Denise, and work at an outdoor flea market through their family’s small business, Modas y creations Erika, on the weekends.

But most importantly, the Herrera sisters support each other, especially when it comes to their dreams. The sisters, ages 23, 19 and 18 respectively, all attend Joliet Junior College as DACA students (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) – and were told from their parents at a young age that education was essential for success.

“My parents taught us that it’s important to have a good work ethic. They have told us that education should be our number one priority,” Itzamar said.

Their parents, Juan Herrera and Matilde Herrera-Ojeda, immigrated their family to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico 15 years ago. Having worked hard at minimum wage jobs in the U.S., they wanted more for their daughters. They instilled a drive in them, so that after they graduated from Plainfield Central High School, they would want to continue their education.

Itzamar had to learn about college as a blank slate, being the oldest. She chose JJC not only because it was affordable, but also because she heard great things about JJC’s nursing program. Inspired by her great-grandmother’s profession as a midwife, nursing was something that interested her.

Itzamar met with Latino Student Support Specialist Martha Villegas Miranda, who helped her get started in college and introduced her to Latinos Unidos, a club that helped her succeed as a Latina student.

Although they are all involved at JJC, they agreed that Erika has embraced student activities the most. From attending free leadership seminars to becoming vice president of the International Students Club, Erika said she loves JJC because it is very inclusive of all students.

It’s also the perfect place for undecided students. It was at JJC where Erika discovered an interest in radiation therapy, thanks to Career Pathway Coach Jill Geers. She plans to transfer to Roosevelt University after JJC.

Andrea, who graduated from high school this past May, said choosing JJC was a no-brainer. Not only has she already been a part of JJC student activities thanks to her sisters, she’s also taken several dual credit classes through her high school, which will transfer in as JJC general education credits this fall. That means she’ll begin classes for her major – computer science – much sooner.

Since all three are DACA students, they aren’t eligible for financial aid, which means they have to rely on scholarships. Because of JJC’s scholarship workshops, all three have received scholarships from JJC, including Andrea, who will get a free ride next year thanks to the JJC Foundation Scholarship.

“I’ve had friends that think applying for college is too much work,” Andrea said. “Think of it as investing in your future. If you work hard right now and go to JJC where they make the process easy, it will definitely be worth it in the end because you’ll get to pursue a career you’re passionate about.”

For more information about Joliet Junior College, visit www.jjc.edu.

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