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Esperanza College of Eastern University is a place where students can can dream and are provided with the resources they need to make those dreams happen. From quality facilities to caring faculty and tuition supports, we are making hope possible in the heart of North Philadelphia.

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Barbie’s Story: Courageous Leadership in the Fight Against Hunger

Barbie’s Story: Courageous Leadership in the Fight Against Hunger

One out of five people in Philadelphia are affected by food insecurity – a challenge that has only been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, there are heroes on the front lines tackling food insecurity everyday – and Esperanza College graduate Barbie Izquierdo ’15 is one of them.

Barbie Izquierdo began advocating against food insecurity and fighting for food justice issues over thirteen years ago. “I speak out and share my experiences of trying to raise two kids while earning less than minimum wage, having a job then losing a job and trying to go to school all at the same time. I am lobbying for food assistance programs and to bring awareness to what would happen if budget cuts are made to them. I know true change cannot happen if no one talks about it.” 

Barbie was featured in a documentary called, “A Place at The Table”, where her day-to-day struggle with food insecurity was filmed for two years. LA Times says the documentary “may rank among the most moving in that it tackles a seemingly straightforward, solvable problem: hunger in the United States.” The documentary has made a lasting impression. Barbie says, “People that watch the documentary to this day reach out to me on Instagram, Facebook or Linked In. They send me the most incredible messages.”

Her time at Esperanza College showed her what she was capable of, and she graduated with an associate degree in Criminal Justice. She says, “I was that person who thought I couldn’t be successful, and couldn’t go to college, but I did it. I was a part of the Honor’s Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated with excellent grades. I think a lot of people can relate to that.”

Barbie has been the keynote speaker at the Whitehouse alongside President Joe Biden and has testified before Congress and at Capitol Hill. She travels nationally speaking on food insecurity, childhood obesity and nutrition. Barbie’s leadership is an inspiration to us– and the courage our communities need.

Debra’s Story: Giving Back Through Education

Debra’s Story: Giving Back Through Education

After her family immigrated to the United States, Deborah looked forward to pursuing her college degree. She found a home at Esperanza College of Eastern University. Here, she was surrounded by other students who had similar journeys and lived experiences to her own.

With Spanish as her primary language, Deborah sought to enroll in community college but found that she would have to take language classes before she could begin her studies – and at a full tuition rate. A friend introduced Deborah to Esperanza’s educational opportunities, which opened new doors. At Esperanza College, Deborah could receive built in language supports and learn at a fraction of the time and cost.

Deborah had a strong passion for children and decided to study Early Childhood Education. Although she had moments when she felt like giving up, she was surrounded by bilingual faculty and peers who believed in her. She graduated with her associate degree in Early Childhood Education as Valedictorian of her class!

Deborah completed her bachelor’s degree at Eastern University and became a Spanish teacher, helping older youth to navigate their emotions and experiences through language so that they would be in a better position to learn. Deborah is now pursuing her master’s degree in Psychology and hopes to become a school guidance counselor. Each step was one she could not have imagined before.

Deborah’s vision and confidence continue to grow. Like many of our students and clients, she sees Esperanza as a home she can return to – a community of supporters, donors, faculty, and friends. To be known, understood, and empowered are priceless gifts.

Deborah imparts her wisdom to others to follow: “When I was able to graduate…and when they told me I was going to be valedictorian because of my grades… it made me really proud of myself that I am capable to do more than I think…I came here knowing English but when I started taking classes that helped me a lot… Never give up!”