This Sunday, Anna Ocegueda will become the first person in her family to graduate from a four-year university. But it won’t be just her family and friends celebrating — people all over the country have been rooting for her.
It all started with a tweet.
Ocegueda, 22, recently posted a photo on social media paying tribute to her parents, who she says are responsible for her being able to graduate from the University of California, Merced.
The photo’s caption in Spanish reads “Por Ustedes y Para Ustedes,” which translates to “because of you, and for you.”
Ocegueda and her four siblings are the children of migrant farm workers from Mexico. Her parents have been picking seasonal fruits in Orange Grove for more than 25 years.
The photo was the result of an assignment for a global arts studies class where Ocegueda and her classmates were to portray a political issue through art. She knew that she wanted the photo to feature her parents in their typical work attire while she wore her graduation cap and stole. This juxtaposition, she said, illustrated how her parents’ hard work and determination had led her to her success.
“Knowing they’re out there working in the hot sun kept me going and doing it for them,” she said in a phone interview with NBC News.
Ocegueda said she never expected the tweet to go viral, but it now has more than 4,000 retweets and 16,000 likes. The photo struck a chord not only with her local community — which is predominantly Latino — but also with folks around the country.
“I think people relate to it because they know what it’s like to have parents who are working difficult jobs to support us,” she said. “They know that going to school will be a way to build a better life not only for themselves but for their parents as well.”
Ocegueda has received an overwhelming amount of support and congratulations online.
“This is so touching,” said one Twitter responder. “I am grateful for all parents who sacrifice so much to ensure a better life for their children. My 80 yo Mom worked hard in the fields to allow things to happen for me.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “Dude I don’t even know you and im proud of you lol you just made all their struggles worth it.”
Ocegueda has also received plenty of messages from students asking for advice. She said that many young Latinos have messaged her saying they face similar obstacles and are unsure how to overcome them.
“I message them and say that sometimes our parents can’t give us everything, but that’s not a reason to give up. There are financial aid and scholarships that will help you pay for school — their financial situation shouldn’t hold them back,” she said.
At this weekend’s graduation ceremony, Ocegueda will receive her bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she plans on moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, to work with children and families.
“You can make it,” she said. “I’m living proof of that.”