Gladys Acosta spoke no English when she left her native Venezuela in 2008, but she had big dreams.

A decade later, those dreams are almost a reality, as Acosta is about to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Woman’s University.

“I’ve been dreaming about this day since – oh God, I don’t know – many, many years ago,” she said. “I cannot believe it.”

Born in Venezuela in 1979, Acosta spent most of her life in a small town on the outskirts of the capital of Caracas. She and her husband, also from Venezuela, married in 2001.

“The situation started getting really bad in my country,” she said. “The political situation, the social situation – they were bad.”

“We were seeing how all the doors were closing for people. No opportunities, no more dreams. We thought we needed to go before it was too late.”

Her husband worked for an international company and was offered a transfer to Texas. With two small boys, they left the only home they’d ever known in search of safety and security.

A photo of Gladys Acosta's family.
A photo of Gladys Acosta's family.

“I just want to live in peace. In Venezuela, we don’t have peace,” she said.

Gladys began taking classes at Tarrant County College, and, inspired by the support her son received from his bilingual teacher, she set her sights on a degree in education.

On Saturday, May 12, Gladys’s dreams will come true. She will graduate with a 3.98 GPA.

It has been 10 years since she has seen her mother, father, sisters, or extended family. So, her graduation is somewhat bittersweet.

“I’m like, is this happening, is this real?" she said. "But on the other hand, I have this feeling like - I did it!"

Texas Woman's University
Texas Woman's University

“There are so many kids that need somebody that understands their situation. I understand how frustrated you can get when you try to say something and you can’t find the words, or when somebody is talking to you and you don’t understand,” she added. “I want to help those kids and help them dream big because they have a future. They have many opportunities here.”

“I’m going to teach them that this country was built with a lot of effort, with a lot of work, but with love,” she explained. “I find that American people really love their country. And when you really believe in your values, your country, your foundation…that can lead you to do whatever you want.”