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Bernadette Granados-California native Bernadette Granados never lost hope in herself or her dream of a college education. Like so many Irvine Valley College (IVC) Class of 2020 graduates, commencement is the capstone of Bernadette’s college journey. She and her classmates all are looking forward to IVC’s virtual commencement on May 28, 2020.

For Bernadette, this victory comes along with the celebration of her acceptance into the world-class, top-ranked University of California, Berkeley with a full scholarship. In addition to Berkeley, she was accepted by seven other universities, including UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Davis.

What sets Bernadette apart from her fellow IVC graduates are her three decades of professional experience and the fact that she first enrolled in college in 1983. Over the years, Bernadette’s education was always a top priority, but she also faced extraordinary challenges. She has had to support herself since she was 18, sometimes working two or more jobs. Becoming a mother halted her educational goals when she began caring for and solely supporting her son.

In 2019, once Bernadette’s son went away to college, she decided that this was going to be her year! She could finally commit to college full-time. Bernadette is completing 19 units this semester during her home stretch towards graduation, although all classes were moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Bernadette’s curriculum is diverse, with subjects ranging from psychology to tap dancing—all of which are still happening online via Zoom. Though she misses the in-person dance interaction with her classmates, she continues tapping away on her hardwood floor.

This month, IVC will award her with two degrees: an Associate in Arts for Transfer and an Associate in Arts with an emphasis in social and behavioral sciences. She will graduate with honors. Looking back, she shares that while her long journey had many obstacles, it helped clarify her passion for the law, which has led her to Berkeley as a legal studies major. This decision ultimately crystalized her ambition to change public policies for social justice, with a goal to segue into law school.

Although Bernadette believes that “age is simply a date on your driver’s license,” she confesses her energy and enthusiasm have allowed her to easily fit in with her classmates. She credits IVC Guidance and Counseling Department Chair Robert Melendez with helping her hone her final path to success and offering her key advice along the way.

“Bernadette is driven and focused, but in a good way,” Melendez says. “I would say she never takes no for an answer. She is always seeking to find the right person or the right service to assist her. She is focused and determined. I admire how she utilized our resources to support her progress. We are so proud of her success.”  

Bernadette has become quite skilled in time management. Nevertheless, she admits to the pressures of coping with multiple assignments, projects, and exams. In her acceptance offer letter from Berkeley’s office of admissions, she was recognized for her “outstanding academic and personal achievements.” Berkeley also celebrated her passion, persistence, and convictions.

Others who have interacted with Bernadette admire her gusto as well. “Personally, we in the Transfer Center are all so pleased to have been able to support Bernadette in achieving her transfer dream,” said Armando Garcia, senior Transfer Center specialist.

He adds, “I have to say she advocated for herself. Kudos to her for taking the initiative to utilize the Transfer Center and all our counseling services. IVC offers many services for our students, including help with admission applications, personal statements, and college tours, and she always kept coming back to ask questions and take full advantage of our supportive services. We wish all our students would take this opportunity to make sure they aren’t missing any steps in their transfer process.”

“I hope to inspire others as a glimmer of hope to believe in themselves that they will complete their education,” Bernadette says. “You have to find your own passion.” Bernadette shared she has a fondness for lighthouses and was a frequent traveler before California’s current stay-at-home living conditions. She says that visiting lighthouses is something she enjoys and intends to continue, seeing them as a metaphor for herself. “Attending UC Berkeley is my destiny, my beacon of hope,” she says.

Bernadette’s advice to future students is simple: “Whatever adversity happens in your life, take ownership, learn from it and persevere. Don’t ever allow a dreadful situation or tragedy to define you. Be true to yourself.”

Bernadette believes her future at Cal will shine as brightly as her IVC journey did. “I hope to walk at Berkeley’s commencement with the class of 2022! Go Bears!”