I never thought I would be in this position,” said Cynthia Costilla.
The position in which Costilla finds herself is a new Midland College graduate with an associate degree in Health Information Technology and about to embark on a promising career in the medical field. Now, she says her life has changed—all for the better. Costilla never graduated from high school, much less dreamed of graduating from college.
“The day I called to see about those computer classes at Cogdell was the day my life changed!”
Costilla recalled, “I dropped out of high school when I was 16—not for any particular reason—I just didn’t see any need to continue. I figured I would raise babies, and that’s it. Then when my son Blake was in fifth grade, I heard him tell people, ‘My mom didn’t even graduate.’ I remember thinking that if I didn’t graduate, how could I expect my children to stay in school.”
So in 2007, Costilla spent about four weeks studying intensively for the GED® exam and passed. However, she said that she still never thought about going to college. She was happily raising two sons, Blake and his younger brother Keith. She worked part-time as a shipping clerk and later in retail for five or six years, but mostly she enjoyed life as a stay-at-home mom. It was because of her two sons that she found herself at MC’s Cogdell Learning Center taking free computer classes.
“I wanted to help my sons with their homework,” said Costilla. “They were learning computers, so I decided it was time for me to learn, also.”
During the time that Costilla was at Cogdell, she obtained information about the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship, which provides funding for MC tuition, fees, textbooks and supplies. Costilla recalled that the enthusiastic staff at Cogdell, particularly Liz Zenteno and Adriana Jaso, encouraged her to apply for the scholarship and take a few college classes. Costilla enrolled in MC’s Health Information Technology program, and within two years obtained a certificate in medical coding.
Costilla explained, “I always wanted to work in the medical field, and once I took that first computer class at Cogdell, I also realized that I had a knack for computers. Health Information Technology allows me to combine both passions. The program is also great for people like me who have family responsibilities because all the courses are online.”
However, while an online program sounds like it would be an easy solution for those with busy lives, Costilla admitted that it also takes discipline because there is no set class time. She said that it was easy to let other obligations get in the way of her studies. She finally got into a routine of setting aside specific hours during the day and said that she made a conscious effort to leave the house and study at the campus, where she could just concentrate on her courses. She also credits the great instructors in the Health Information Technology program, specifically Program Chair Melinda Teel and Associate Professor Shawnda Meshirer, for their compassion and belief in her.
Costilla didn’t stop with a medical coding certificate. She decided to continue taking courses at Midland College so that she could get an associate degree, which meant taking general education courses like English, speech and the dreaded math!
“I knew I would struggle with math,” stated Costilla. “However, I spent a lot of time in the Math Lab and had so much encouragement from math instructors like Connie Sanchez. My cousin Gracie also assisted me, and I couldn’t have done any of this without my mother.”
Costilla continued, “On May 10, 2013, I became the first in my family to graduate from college. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but my mother has been so supportive. She has helped me with my sons and cooked dinners so that I can have time to study. She knows that obtaining a degree is important to me, and it will serve as an example to her grandchildren. I can tell that she is proud of me.”
Family is important to Costilla. She is involved with her sons at school and in sports. Both Blake (age 17) and Keith (age 11) play football, and Cynthia and their father Rodney are their loudest cheerleaders. The family of four also enjoys just being together for family time.
Costilla said with a laugh, “With two boys, we find that we spend a lot of time eating!”
Costilla now plans to pursue a career working in a medical specialist’s office performing medical coding responsibilities. She is especially interested in cardiology and oncology.
“The day I called to see about those computer classes at Cogdell was the day my life changed!” exclaimed Costilla. “I am grateful, lucky and blessed.”