Most graduates from the City Colleges of Chicago don’t participate in the traditional cap-and-gown ceremony. Only 1,424 students from the seven colleges — Harold Washington, Harry S. Truman, Kennedy-King, Olive-Harvey, Malcolm X, Richard J. Daley and Wilbur Wright — will walk across the stage at Wintrust Arena this Sunday for a handshake and a diploma cover. More than 2,000 graduates will pass on the opportunity.
Jobs. Family obligations. Too busy.
But Maria G. Delgado will be there.
“It’s important for me to go to the ceremony because it brings closure,” she said. “Closing a chapter but beginning a new one. Closing a cycle.”
Now she is 47.
“I grew up in Wicker Park, then moved to Humboldt Park,” she said. “It was a very bad area back then, lots of shooting, lots of people dying. I’m surprised that we made it out.”
She was born in Mexico’s most violent city, Zamora, Michoacán. Her mother was 14. Her parents, Trinidad and Virginia Montejano, fled to the United States when Delgado was a child. They stressed the importance of education, and are another reason she is going to commencement on Sunday.
“It honors my parents,” she said. “A way to thank them for everything they did, a way of paying them back.”
Which some might say she’s already done. After Delgado began college, her parents grew ill. She tried taking classes while being their caregiver, but it became too much. Her mom needed a pacemaker; her dad, a liver transplant. Delgado started having panic attacks.
“I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “Once they told me she had three- to six-month life expectancy, I couldn’t retain anything. I withdrew from my classes.”
Her mother died in 2008; her father died in 2015. But by then Delgado had her own difficulties. She struggled with mental illness.
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