It’s strange to think, given all she’s accomplished, that Diana Sheila Algomeda Villada once wondered if she belonged in college. “As students of color we internalize this idea that we don’t belong in higher education,” she said.
Born in Mexico, Algomeda Villada came to the United States with her family at age 10. The oldest of four siblings, she served as both role model and caretaker. Algomeda Villada’s parents each worked two jobs. The family lives in Burien where Algomeda Villada attended Highline High School. “At the end of my senior year my mom suffered an on-the-job accident and hasn’t been able to work since,” said Alogmeda Villada. “I got a job soon after and have been helping the family financially.”
Algomeda Villada got accepted to three different colleges. “UW Tacoma was the first one to answer my calls,” she said. “They were the most welcoming.” Algomeda Villada spent her first year working and studying. At that time she took the bus from her home to campus and didn’t have room for much else. Besides her classes, Algomeda Villada was busy tutoring high school students back at Highline. She also bussed tables at a local restaurant.
During her sophomore year a professor asked Algomeda Villada if she had any interest in becoming a Peer Advisor (now known as Pack Advisors). Algomeda Villada applied and was ultimately offered the position. “I have a growth mindset,” she said. “I’m always looking for new opportunities and experiences.”
Algomeda Villada threw herself into campus life. She became a part of ASUWT as the Undeclared Major Senator. Algomeda Villada worked on the “We are First Generation” campaign and helped create First Gen Fellows. “Redesigning the Fellows program allowed me to apply my experience as a first-generation student while also using what I’d learned in my major and from mentorships with faculty,” she said.
Algomeda Villada initially planned to get a degree in politics, philosophy and economics but switched to ethnic, gender and labor studies. “My involvement at UW Tacoma led me to choose that major,” she said. “I wanted to be more educated about race, class and gender because these are the things I’m passionate about and I knew I needed more background information.”
The addition of extracurricular activities doesn’t mean Algomeda Villada isn’t still working to support her family. She is currently employed at a car dealership. Algomeda Villada is also an intern at Tacoma Community House. “I’m in employment services,” she said. “I help people find jobs.”
Algomeda Villada’s list of achievements is impressive. Besides those mentioned above, she’s also a Dressel Scholar and Bamford Fellow and, as of mid-June, college graduate. So, what comes next? What accolade is Algomeda Villada working toward? “I’m not sure, I think I’d like to take a little break,” she said. “I just know that I like being in places where I can advocate for others or help them in some way.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or email@example.com