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AUB Student Overcomes Adversities, Earns Scholarship

Thursday, May 8, 2014
By Eladio Jaimez

RitaWhen Rita Renee Gonzales was faced with the choice of giving up or continuing to fight, the 32-year old Rio Hondo native opted for the latter.

In the past couple of years, Gonzales has overcome health issues, recovered from job layoffs and decided that it's never too late to return to school.

Gonzales' tenacity has paid off as the Collision Repair Education Foundation recently presented her with a $5,000 scholarship.

Gonzales is enrolled in the Automotive Collision Technology (AUB) Program at Texas State Technical College and is expected to graduate in Spring 2015.

But the journey hasn't been easy for Gonzales.

"I don't know where I'd be without my family," Gonzales said. "They've been so loving and supportive throughout this whole situation. They were the only ones around when I had no one else. I used to be caught up in the material world but none of that matters when you go from being independent to needing help walking."

Gonzales graduated from Rio Hondo High School in 2000 and enrolled in the Automotive Technology (AUT) Program at TSTC and graduated in 2001 with a certificate.

She immediately got hired by the Kellog Dealership in San Benito but due to economic turn down was soon thereafter laid off around 2004. She then went to work for Ballenger Construction for the next six years and worked as a heavy equipment operator. In 2010, Gonzales was laid off again due to the economy again.

The layoffs weighed heavy on Gonzales but the biggest blow came a couple of years later when her health was compromised.

Toward the end of 2010 and early 2011, Gonzales became ill and experienced severe hemorrhagic bleeding.

In 2012, Gonzales was diagnosed with Endometriosis, a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb grow in other areas of the body. Gonzales wasn't working and had no insurance.

"The diagnosis shattered my dreams," Gonzales said. "It was hard to process. I felt lost in my life. I didn't know what to do. I felt so old and I didn't know what to do with my life anymore."

That's where her family came in and helped Gonzales cope with her setbacks. By December 2012, Gonzales had been released by the hospital and was ready to move on with her life.

"My brother and his wife are educators with the Weslaco school district and they urged me to go back to school," Gonzales said. "My brother literally brought me the paperwork I needed to get back into school."

But it wasn't an easy decision for Gonzales. She wasn't sure if she could return to school or handle the pressures or being a student again, especially at 32.

Again, she credits her family and boyfriend for being supportive and giving her the push she needed to enroll at TSTC once again.

"One day I just decided to go back," she said. "I couldn't find a job so I knew I had to do something. I put pressure on myself to excel. I earned all A's in the fall and this spring."

Gonzales even serves as the vice president of the AUB Club.

"I'm optimistic now," Gonzales said. "You learn from your mistakes and you learn from your struggles. You can choose to fold or you can choose to keep going. I'm glad I have a great support system around me that kept me going."

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