By Katie Jensen

It was a routine Monday morning for Angela Campagna, waking up at five in the morning to get ready to go to community college in Chicago. She would grab her backpack, and two young kids and start on her trek to school. They took the Milwaukee bus to the train station, hopped on the blue line, and got off at Harlem Avenue. This is where she would drop off the kids to be watched by her mom for the day. It was now 5:40 a.m. and she would get on the second bus at Harlem Avenue. In the end, it took Angela a total of two trains and four buses just to get to school each morning. Once her school day was over, she would go back the same way and do it all over again. I admire my grandma’s determination and all the sacrifices she made to pursue her education while taking care of her family.

JensenAngela thought that her whole life was set and on the right track at the age of seventeen. She was happily married and had two kids by nineteen. Three years and several black eyes later, the relationship had come to an end. Her now ex-husband would get physically violent when he drank, which resulted in court and a three-year order of protection. Her story was featured in the Picture Week magazine titled “Are Divorce Laws Fair to Women?” (pictured on the right). With little to no financial stability, she was forced to move into a basement apartment of a house that her dad owned. Advice from my grandma is to “Finish college before getting married or having a kid, but never give up on yourself”. I have learned countless things from my grandma, but this is one that has truly stuck with me. I know that I have to always believe in myself because she taught me to never lose hope in my own abilities. Although things didn’t seem to be in her favor, my grandma always managed to stay positive and see the good in life.

Post-divorce, Angela went to community college for one year because her income as a waitress wasn’t enough to support her daughters, Jenny and Angel, who were three and two at the time. Although she was tired enough with two kids and schooling, she continued to waitress three nights a week from 4 p.m.-4 a.m. because she had to support her family somehow. Her family received food from the food pantry and often ate at Burger King because the breakfast sandwiches were only 99¢. My grandma faced challenging circumstances and her resilience is truly inspiring. Many people would have given up, but she kept going.

She had finished her Bachelors at the University of DeVry within three and a half years with a degree in engineering. The costs piled up as time went on and she had about $41,000 of debt post-college. Her degree allowed her to get a job as an engineering technical (EE2) straight out of college. This job paid $27,000 to start, which wasn’t a lot, but it was far more than she was making as a waitress. This career was a good start to success, but it caused her to fall into a depression. The ratio of men to women in engineering at the time was 10,000:100. There were only eight women in her entire graduating class because women didn’t go into that study back then. She had worked just as hard, if not harder than the men competing against her for jobs, however, she was still neglected. Most of the higher paying jobs were given to men and the women were extremely overlooked in the field. It took a whopping ten years for Angela to work her way up in AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she received a 4% raise each year. I am inspired by my grandma’s determination and courage to pursue a career in engineering, despite the gender disparities and adversity she faced.

JensenTen years flew by and Angela continued to figure out how to provide for her family, even though life as a single mother was unexplainably strenuous. The company she was working for made her path even more bumpy when they told her she needed to get a master’s degree. At the time, 80% of their employees had master’s degrees and they agreed to give her a single day off per week to complete her degree. She had to use this single day off not to spend time with her children, but to attend college for yet another year. As it wasn’t much of an option, she attended the Illinois Institute of Technology and completed her degree in computer science. Going back to college added unprecedented stress and a greater workload. Through all the obstacles my grandma faced, she always put her family and education first.

On a positive note, AT&T Bell Laboratories covered the cost minus taxes. Receiving her master’s degree opened the door to many more opportunities through her company. Angela’s life was on a greater path to success than she could’ve imagined. She received a $10,000 salary raise and a $10,000 bonus per year. Now that she was financially stable, she was able to see herself in a better state of mind and living in a place other than her dad’s basement. This opportunity allowed her to open up and give someone else a chance at love, even though her past relationship was nothing to be fond of. It’s heartwarming to see that her determination paid off and that she was able to create a better life for herself and her family.

JensenAngela remarried, and remains married, to her current husband of forty years. Together, they were able to purchase a house for their new family. She had always loved to travel but wasn’t financially able to do so. She used her $10,000 yearly bonus to travel to incredible destinations each year such as Switzerland, Italy, Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, and almost every national park on the West Coast. Through sleepless nights and famished days, Angela always managed to see the light through the darkness. Her family went from eating one meal a day to being able to take their dream vacation each year. My grandma’s story is an example of how dedication and hard work can transform someone's life. After struggling for so long, I think it’s amazing that she was able to enjoy the rewards of her efforts.

Angela Campagna’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the strength of a single mother’s love. I believe her story can be inspirational to single mothers and anyone facing the challenges of motherhood or adversity in the workplace. The endless determination and courage that Angela exemplified throughout the hardest times of her life shaped her into the wonderful person she continues to be every day.

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