If there is confusion whether renaissance women exist, there will be clarity once Toppenish resident and Grandview educator, Virginia Valdovinos is introduced.
Valdovinos, 36, completed her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California on May 10, this year.
The newly minted Washington State certified Social Worker and her USC Trojan credentials were hard earned. Valdovinos pressed on through 15 years of on and off academic toil, during which time her four children were born, while she cared for her elderly, then terminal grandmother, worked intermittent jobs and struggled with cultural identity as wife, mother and student.
She credits her ability to stay on course to her husband, Joel, her children, Nia Marie, 10, AJ, 7, JP, 5, Lily Grace, 3, and her late grandmother, Pauline Solis.
According to Valdovinos, she always felt she was on a quest to go somewhere academically, but the where and the how were figured out in a blend of the haphazard and the serendipitous.
Valdovinos said her learning journey was both a certainty and unplanned. As the daughter of a modern mother, an MEd, Bilingual Special Education educator, she felt equipped to take on hard things like her mother but lacked direction.
She and Joel took a bold leap, marrying July 2007, while both were unemployed.
“Everyone knew we were crazy, but yes, we knew love would find a way,” she said laughing, and it did.
To help love pay the bills Valdovinos intermittently started and stopped school, attended school and worked, quit work to attend school full-time, stayed home with her children, then returned for the long game while actively parenting and struggling with her cultural identity.
“Culture plays a big role. Women have big expectations placed upon them,” said Valdovinos about her starts and stops. Though she was never tempted to quit mid-study, the struggle to be everything, for everyone never stopped weighing on her.
With baby number four, Lily Grace, in her arms, she felt both ready to complete her Bachelor’s, and ready to be home full-time. She remembers the conversation with her counselor vividly:
“I went in to see if I can enroll at Heritage, I spoke with the advisor. We talked. She gave me all the information and I can see her smiling at my children, but I knew I was ready. I told her I have dreams of being in school, so vivid I know I need to do this, she smiled and must have thought I was crazy.”
And three years later, Valdovinos finished her undergraduate degree.
In all, Valdovinos completed her AA in 2004, at CBC, Pasco, her BSW from Heritage University, in 2017, and the MSW two months ago.
It was apparent to both young Virginia and Virginia the mother and scholar, it was her role model grandmother’s actions, words and listening ability, that was healing and restorative to others.
“I watched her. I am in awe of how one person could give so much to others. I feel I have the same to offer,” Valdovinos said.
Valdovinos is in an MSW job search throughout the valley, but she also knows with certainty, no more indecisiveness, that a PhD is in her future.
“I am looking at all the options. I deserve it, my husband and children, they deserve it,” said Valdovinos. And the struggle between all the roles according to Valdovinos, may play on forever, “But now I know where I am going.”