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Ep 3: ‘I take head of household’

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Palo Alto College student Katelynn Ibarra goes to school full time and works full time to support her mom and her younger brother.
Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Katelynn Ibarra worked full time to support her mom and her younger brother while going to school full time at Palo Alto College.

Katelynn Ibarra started working a 9-to-5 job at a call center in October 2020 to support her family, while continuing to study full time at Palo Alto College.

Her mother’s health had deteriorated, making it hard for her to work. Her mom has diabetes, and it damaged nerves in her feet.

“It's hard for her to drive, and then she just has a lot of difficulty — like she has a lot of stomach issues occasionally, and she can't keep food down,” Ibarra said. “And sometimes she's really bedridden all day because it’s progressed. The illness has progressed, so I take head of household to work for my mom and my brother.”

The switch to online learning during the pandemic helped Ibarra stay in school; she was able to complete her coursework in the evenings or on weekends.

From Texas Public Radio, this is the Enduring Gap, a limited series exploring some of the reasons more Latinos in San Antonio don't have college degrees.

Just 17% of Latino adults have a bachelor’s degree in San Antonio. White adults are more than twice as likely to have a degree.

In this episode, we’re talking about the ways a student’s family can help them get to college and the ways the needs of their family sometimes have to take precedence over earning a degree. This is episode 3: ‘I take head of household.’

In the spring of 2021, TPR sent a survey to students who were currently or recently enrolled in one of San Antonio’s public institutions of higher education. Ibarra is one of the more than 2,600 students who filled out the survey.

Their responses showed a significant difference between the number of white students and the number of Latino students who juggle work and school to help support their families.

Hispanic students like Ibarra are more likely to be responsible for helping their family pay the bills.

For more information on the college access survey the podcast series is based on, read our stories here.

The Enduring Gap podcast is made possible by an Education Writers Association fellowship. EWA fellowships support ambitious education journalism projects.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.