Three members of the same family will be walking the same stage next weekend to receive their college degrees.
Maria Barrientos de Pantaleon, her daughter, Elisa, and Son, Mario, will be receiving their degrees from Cal State Fullerton.
"I'm very excited and I feel blessed," Maria said. "I'm so proud of them because I know what it takes. The funny thing is that we didn't plan it, it just happened."
She said she always wanted to pursue a higher degree, so she went for it. Danny was taking a break from school and decided to go back. Elisa was just starting college. They all just happened to end at the same time.
Maria, a preschool teacher at King State Preschool, is earning a master's degree in education. The Orange County Association for the Education of Young Children selected her for the 2018 preschool teacher of the year award.
"I was not expecting that," Maria said. "I just moved to this district and I'm about to finish my first full year. It's nice to be recognized for the work you do."
Elisa is earning a bachelor's degree in Chicana and Chicano studies.
"I'm really happy because I know it's not too common," Elisa said. "It's really nice to do this with my brother and mom by my side."
During her college years, Elisa said she took one Chicano Studies class with her brother Danny.
"It was kind of nice to have him in the class with me to experience what I've been learning for himself instead of me coming home and trying to explain it," Elisa said.
Danny is earning a bachelor's degree in child and adolescent development. That's the same degree Maria earned at CSUF in 2013.
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"She worked with preschool aged kids in a classroom for over 10 years," Danny said. "I would volunteer in her classroom during the summer and I become open to pursuing that as a career path."
Danny said when he first started his college career he didn't really know what he wanted to do. He was taking different classes but at one point he ended up on academic probation and was out for a year.
"My family really supported me through all of that," Danny said. "They helped me to realize what I had inside myself."
As spring semester classes wind down this week, the Pantaleon's are already preparing for their commencement celebrations taking place graduation weekend, May 18-20.
And all three are considering continuing their academic journeys.
Elisa is saving up to pursue a masters in social work and plans to enroll Fall 2019. Danny, who is an assistant and currently works with kids wants to use his degree to serve his community.
He also plans to pursue a master's degree. Maria plans to get a credential special education preschool teaching. Father and husband, Mario, is solidly behind them all.
"I couldn't have done this without the help of my husband," Maria said. "He is the backbone of my success."