Overcoming obstacles, succeeding at Marshalltown Community College

Diana Guzman

MARSHALLTOWN – “Las barreras te presionarán cada vez más para lograr lo que deseas y esa será la motivación para seguir adelante.” Which loosely translates to, “The barriers that are presented are going to push you harder and harder to accomplish the goals you desire and that is going to be the motivation to keep you going.” This is the quote that Marshalltown Community College student Diana Guzman lives by every day.

Growing up a member of a family that immigrated from Mexico, Guzman and her family dealt with discrimination most of their lives. They were told that they couldn’t have success because of their lower economic status and financial situation, and never would. Guzman was  told her ambitions were too high. Coming to Iowa almost twenty-five years ago, Guzman’s parents defied the odds and have exceeded even their own expectations of what they could achieve.

The Guzman’s have been the proud owners of a family business, El Gallito in Tama, IA since 1996. Guzman’s father had always wanted to own a business and finally had the chance after moving from Mexico. Her parents also dreamed of bigger things for their children and encouraged her and her three siblings to peruse their education. Her father had only gone through first grade and her mother finished high school and attended some college for accounting. Despite this, they started a successful business, which is currently operated by Guzman’s uncle and parents.


The choice to take MCC’s Business Administration program seemed like the most logical step for Guzman, who is planning to become more involved in the business along with her sister as her parents near retirement. “Other careers caught my interest, but business has always been there,” commented Guzman. “I’ve lived through it. I really like to see and communicate with people. It’s a natural calling for me. My sister is also going to be graduating from University of Northern Iowa and we plan to work at the business full time. When my uncle retires, we will hopefully take over to continue the legacy.”

Guzman also liked the fact that the program was just one year. “Running a business is hard. It’s 24/7. A one-year program will give me an education basis and then if I wanted to come back I could and pursue additional classes. MCC has a variety of class time offerings which is an advantage for students who work and go to school. MCC supports all of the diversity and aspirations of their students.”

The discrimination that Guzman has had to deal with her entire life, has caused her in the past to doubt that she would succeed in college. “Latinos, as a culture, are put down as people that can’t accomplish anything due to our economic and social status. I’ve been through discrimination. Situations when I was told I could not accomplish the goals due to my social and financial status to be able to achieve the aspirations I wanted to pursue. I was told by many that I wouldn’t make it in college or other aspirations that I dreamed about accomplishing. I didn’t want to come to college because I struggled financially.”


Valerie Ruiz, MCC’s Academic Advising Specialist, has been one of Guzman’s biggest supporters and advocates to help her continue her education. “We connected easily and talk about things that happen with Latinx. Struggles and barriers that everyone has especially Latinx,” commented Guzman. Guzman shared with Ruiz that she was thinking of dropping out of MCC at one point. “Valerie understood that I didn’t want to continue but motivated me and said that we need more entrepreneurs that are from different ethnicities to bring more culture and life into the business world. There are not a lot of Hispanic business owners.”

Ruiz also let Guzman know that through the Last-Dollar Scholarship, the Business Administration program qualified for free tuition so she wouldn’t have to pay any of the costs after grants and scholarships. “I had money saved up just in case so I would now be coming to school for free. So many people come out with student debt trying to pay for a better education.”


Guzman also received several other scholarships including the Medina Scholarship. “I can’t believe that I am getting so much support that I am actually going to college for free. I didn’t think I could accomplish anything due to the discrimination that I suffered through that many said I couldn’t accomplish the aspirations I wanted.””

Along with Ruiz help, Guzman is thankful for the experience and guidance she has received from George Johnson, MCC Business Faculty and Hashem Hashemi-Toroghi, MCC Economics Faculty. “They have both always pushed me to my limit,” said Guzman. “The way they teach is by showing real-world applications. We have to use it in business as well as outside of that. When I am struggling, they are willing to help. I want to learn everything that I can from them and everything that I will have to use one day or another.”


Guzman has enjoyed her education and recommends others attend MCC as well. “People should look more at community college. Even if it’s a couple of semesters, it really helps out. The college is willing and here to help. The advising team is willing to hear out students. As a community college student you get more of a basis of what you will be doing and getting more out of your education when you are able to ask questions. I believe community colleges give students, including students outside the United States, a chance to pursue a higher.”

“Different is what we need, different is what people need to see and hear, different is what is going to make a change. When you come to MCC you think I’m not going to make a difference. Yes, you are. You’re getting a good education at an affordable rate and there are lots of opportunities. MCC gave me the opportunity to pursue the goals that six year old me never would have thought about accomplishing. MCC believes in giving students an opportunity to accomplish their educational goals.”

“My education is everything. I want to have a successful business. I want to do the things that people said I couldn’t do. Thanks to opportunities here at MCC I can accomplish those and have the thought that I really did that.”

When Guzman was younger, she didn’t anticipate that she would have success. “I think about how blessed I am to be here. My efforts into my education have paid off and the fact that I can come to school and know what I am going to do and that my future will come back ten times more than I anticipated. Everything happens for a reason. Due to the challenges I have faced, it pushed me to do better and I feel that I can accomplish everything that people said I wouldn’t be able to.”

Guzman wanted to share her story because she realizes what an important topic discrimination is. “I was repeatedly told in my life that because I was Hispanic, that I would never have the financial means to succeed and I would never be smart enough to attend college and that I needed to lower my goals. It can crush someone’s ambition. Everyone has their struggles every day. My story has pushed me to do better things and not to believe in barriers and discrimination. It motivates me every day. I want to show people what they can do and show those people that didn’t believe in me what I have achieved already at just 18.”

Guzman along with her three siblings have all graduated and have high school diplomas and soon three of them will have college degrees as well. “I am grateful for the opportunities that my parents have provided for us. To leave their hometown where opportunities were very limited and sacrifice to give their children everything even with the obstacles they have had to overcome. I will forever be grateful.”

Receiving the Medina Scholarship along with all the other support that Guzman has received, even now she is thinking about how she can give back to others. “I’d like to create a scholarship in the future when I become more involved with our family business.

Every little bit helps. I have been through the struggles I want to give someone the opportunity that many others don’t have. I could help someone else have a good education. I want to create that ambition in the future. I want to be a leader in my community in the future. I hope my story inspires minorities to believe in themselves and that the barriers or obstacles they are surpassing will only motivate them to push harder to accomplish the goals that they never thought possible. Everything in this life is accomplishable do not give up as I never gave up. Todo en esta vida se puede lograr no se rindan como nunca me rinde yo.”

Marshalltown Community College, located in Marshalltown, is a member of the Iowa Valley Community College District. The District is comprised of Marshalltown Community College, Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Valley Grinnell, and Iowa Valley Continuing Education. The District serves a broad range of students and businesses throughout Central Iowa. For more information, check out the website at mcc.iavalley.edu.

Courtesy of Marshalltown Community College

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