Academia had always been at the core of Briana Uribe’s identity. In the fifth grade, she applied for and was accepted to The Preuss School UC San Diego, an award-winning charter middle and high school for gifted, low-income, aspiring first generation college students.


Uribe’s mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, made sure her daughter took advantage of all the academic and professional opportunities that came her way. Growing up, Uribe says she always felt a “healthy amount of pressure to succeed” and was thought of as a bright child destined for great things within her community. 


Preperation is Key

Following her time at The Preuss School, Uribe made the decision to attend UC Riverside (UCR).


At UCR, Uribe said she felt a lack of community and support from faculty and staff. In addition, coming from a graduating class of approximately 85 students to being one of hundreds in a classroom was isolating.


Uribe also felt blindsided by the financial impact of attending a large university. “I wasn’t given a realistic picture of what the support would look like at a large university or what the financial requirements would be,” said Uribe.


These factors led to struggles both academically and emotionally during her time at UCR. When Uribe couldn’t make a mandatory meeting for her financial aid, she was dismissed from UCR.


New Beginnings at Cuyamaca College

During a two-year sabbatical, Uribe had a daughter with her long-time partner; this was a major catalyst for her returning to school. “If my daughter can come here knowing nothing…I know things already. I can do this. If anything, if I can’t do this for myself, I can do it for her,” said Uribe.


Uribe made an appointment with counselor, Lilia Pulido, and enrolled in paralegal courses at Cuyamaca College.


At Cuyamaca College Uribe found empathetic and attentive faculty. She emphasized the quality and accessibility of counseling services as something that was life changing. Being able to meet with counselors for long, comprehensive appointments “wasn’t something I had easy access to at my large university,” said Uribe.


Many Cuyamaca College professors also left a positive impression on Uribe. For example, she says Professor Baker went “out of her way” to give the time and attention to students that was needed for success. “I could tell the school doesn’t just care about the resume. They really want to make sure these people [faculty] put the student experience first,” said Uribe.


Uribe describes many professors and mentors she has encountered in the Paralegal Program as “instrumental to her success,” including Professor Baker, Professor Joan Rettinger, Judge Sturgeon, and many more.


Finding Kinship with Other Students

The diversity of the student population contributed to Uribe’s positive experience at Cuyamaca. She met other mothers and non-mothers on a similar path, whom she could relate to and feel a sense of community which was a change from the isolation she felt at university.


“I needed to go to a place that could nurture me and help me grow. I feel like Cuyamaca has the resources and it’s small enough, but big enough for you to do that,” said Uribe.


After graduation, Uribe expects to be a driving force in the technological advancement of the legal industry.