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Mom and daughter accomplish college goals at WSU

Sinai kissing her mother, Gaby, on the cheek while both wear WSU commencement gowns.
Sinai Espinoza Hernandez, left, gives her mother, Gaby Hernandez, a celebratory kiss.

Gaby Hernandez thought college wasn’t possible for her. She immigrated to the United States at 17, and though she graduated from high school in Bridgeport, Washington, her path led to motherhood and family life. 

As her three kids grew, she and her husband encouraged their oldest child, daughter Sinai Espinoza Hernandez, to consider college. To that end, the family visited a community college. Something clicked, Gaby said. Her kids were older and she had been thinking about getting a job outside the home. Instead, she wondered, “maybe there’s something of college for me?” 

Both mother and daughter found what they needed at Washington State University, with transfer options and online education. The result: They graduated together in the commencement ceremony in Spokane on May 5. 

Both mother and daughter found what they needed at Washington State University, with transfer options and online education. 

Gaby, a registered nurse, received her bachelor of science in nursing. Sinai graduated with a bachelor of arts in political science. 

Both credit each other and their family for helping them reach their goals. 

“I got my inspiration from both of my parents,” said Sinai. “Growing up, we were low-income, middle-income, working with what we had. Both my parents would say, ‘Do you want this sort of life, or do you want a better life?’” 

Sinai wants to work for a nonprofit helping people of color and serving the community. Eventually she hopes to run for office. “In order to better serve the people and who I’m trying to represent, I need to understand their struggles,” she explained. 

Her mom will continue to work at the small hospital in Brewster, Washington, where she is an acute-care nurse on the night shift. 

Both Gaby and Sinai began their journey to a bachelor’s degree at Wenatchee Valley College, then transferred to WSU. Sinai spent a year in Pullman before moving to Seattle and finishing her degree through WSU’s online Global Campus. 

Gaby’s degree took more time than her daughter’s, with more challenges along the way. 

She paid out of pocket for her first quarter in community college, but couldn’t sustain that. As an undocumented resident, she wasn’t eligible for federal financial aid. A counselor in Bridgeport told her about the Washington Application for State Financial Aid, which helps undocumented residents find funding to pay for college.    

She chose nursing as her career and worked through the challenges one at a time. She got an associate degree then transferred to WSU’s RN-BSN degree-completion program for working nurses. 

Gaby, who also became a legal resident of the U.S. not long ago, said in a joint Zoom call with Sinai that she’s proud of her daughter. “She’s just a go-getter, and inspires her (younger) brothers.” 

Responded Sinai, “I’m proud of you mama. I love you.” 

Sinai holding hands with her mother, Gaby, while both wear WSU commencement gowns.
New Cougar alumni, Sinai Espinoza Hernandez, left, and her mother, Gaby Hernandez.

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