Christian Villalobos — College of Business
NIU President Doug Baker had barely arrived on campus when he met Christian Villalobos. She was speaking on behalf of students who, like herself, are undocumented citizens. Let’s just say that she was not afraid to speak truth to power.
As it turned out, they were kindred spirits on that issue, and a friendship was born that day, one that grew as Dr. Baker learned more about her story.
When she arrived in America, Christian was a six-year-old who spoke no English. She bounced from school to school with a learning disability that took years to identify, and until middle school she struggled to earn even passing grades.
It is a familiar story in her neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago, and many of her peers give up and succumb to the lure of the gangs. But not Christian. Even as she struggled, she knew that education could provide a path out. She sought help and worked harder. She graduated from middle school with honors. And did the same at Lane Tech High School.
She knew that paying for college would be difficult. Her undocumented status made her ineligible for any financial aid. Her mother, Belin, earned less than minimum wage and could provide no help. Christian landed a partial scholarship to attend NIU, but barely enough to cover one semester. She sought help through the Latino Resource Center and found a scholarship that allowed her to finish the year.
She threw herself into her studies and into pursuing scholarships that would pay for them. Ultimately, she paid for nearly here entire education through scholarships and covered the rest of her expenses through summer jobs at home and on campus during the school year.
Despite all of those demands she was very active in campus life. She worked on behalf of undocumented students through the Dream Action NIU and served two years on the executive board of the Adela de la Torre Latino Honor Society. At the business school, she was part of a team that took third place in a national sales competition and worked two internships for Visa Now Global Immigration. Somehow, she even found opportunities to show off her talents for singing and dancing in a variety of talent show cases and competitions.
And, through it all, she never let her grades slip. She graduated with a degree in marketing wearing the sash reserved for those who have completed the requirements to earn upper division honors.
The most valuable thing she learned at NIU, however, did not come from a classroom. She says, “I’ve learned that even in the darkest moments, when you don’t think you can do it, you have to push yourself. You can never give up.”