Carlos Colmenares and Elidia Gonzalez weren’t science majors but they understood chemistry. The pair met during a criminal justice course. “We spotted each other but didn’t know how to start a conversation,” said Gonzalez. As it turns out Colmenares and Gonzalez had a mutual friend. The three went out to dinner one day after class. Colmenares and Gonzalez chatted; their conversation continued online via Facebook Messenger. “He asked me for my number which I thought was a pretty slick way of doing it,” said Gonzalez.
The two started dating in June of 2014. Both realized early on that they’d met “the one.” “I just had a sense that this was going to be more than a one-date type of thing,” said Gonzalez. Colmenares, who is roughly four years older, knew what he was looking for in a partner. “Everything I wanted in a person I found in her,” he said.
Gonzalez graduated from UW Tacoma in 2014 with a degree in psychology. Colmenares achieved alumnus status a year later when he earned a degree in criminal justice. On a cold night in April 2016, Colmenares asked his then-girlfriend to take a walk. They strolled across the Bridge of Glass, huddled together to stay warm. “We like to walk around Downtown Tacoma,” said Colmenares. “It has a very special feeling to us.” Near the end of the bridge, stood a group of friends. Colmenares asked them to come to be part of a special moment. He got down on one knee and proposed.
Colmenares and Gonzalez got married in the fall of 2017 during a ceremony in Kent. The newlyweds were supposed to go from there to the reception in Federal Way. “We needed to go to Tacoma,” said Colmenares. “It didn’t matter if we ended up being late.” The happy couple gathered their wedding party and headed to campus.
This particular love story may not have happened if a few things went differently. Gonzalez had already accepted offers from two different universities. In her words, she “stumbled” across UW Tacoma. Gonzalez attended a workshop on campus where she learned about the Husky Promise. The program covers the cost of tuition for eligible students. “The stars just seemed to align,” she said.
Colmenares completed his associate’s degree at Highline College. His decision to transfer to UW Tacoma was also influenced by the Husky Promise. “I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to finish school without that support,” he said. “I had a part-time job but couldn’t do more than that and get myself through college.”
Colmenares and Gonzalez are both first generation college students. Colmenares lived in Los Angeles until he was fifteen. The family relocated to Washington State to pursue a job lead. Colmenares finished high school in Federal Way. He had a passion for history and considered making that his major in college. “I was very fortunate to have encouraging parents,” he said. “Neither one of them had the opportunity to go to college but they always hoped I would go.”
Gonzalez’s parents were pretty straightforward. “I was always told that college wasn’t a choice – I was going,” she said. Gonzalez’s mother and father immigrated to the United States from Mexico. “They were from the working class,” she said. Gonzalez’s parents didn’t finish high school but saw education as the key to a brighter future. “I had that idea ingrained in me when I was young,” she said.
Carlos and Elidia live in Milton. He works two jobs, one at Chase Bank, the other at Pioneer Human Services. In his role at Pioneer, Colmenares assists immigrant youth between the ages of 13-17. “I help supervise the residents and foster an environment of mutual respect,” he said. Ultimately, Colmenares hopes to help formerly incarcerated people transition back into society.
Gonzalez is a bookkeeper at Safeway. In the past she’s worked with autistic children as a registered behavior technician. “I love helping people,” she said. Gonzalez is weighing her options at the moment but wants to work in a field that will allow her to directly help others.
The couple have been married for nearly six months. They say a shared set of core values and culture brought them together and humor kept them that way. “We’re always clowning on each other,” said Colmenares. “You have to have a little bit of humor in life to enjoy it,” said Gonzalez.
The pair hope to one day become a threesome. Carlos and Elidia have talked about kids, specifically what they’ll tell their future children about college. “It’s exciting, because they’ll have what we didn’t,” said Colmenares. “We’ll be able to guide them, to answer their questions and help them make the transition to higher education.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or email@example.com