Persistence: One of the Secrets to Academic Success


By: Kimberly A. Sanchez – Student Support Specialist – Title V Department

Reflections written by:
Carmen Angel – AU Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education and
Manuel Rodriguez – AU Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education

Students have experienced many changes to their daily routines and lifestyles during the COVID-19 pandemic era. One of the many changes that has affected students is the transition from classroom learning to remote learning. One major change for a majority of our students has been the switch from classroom learning to distance learning. And while many students have adjusted to this way of learning, some may still be struggling. Distance learning does require a lot of discipline, focus and determination, but through persistence and perseverance we can all achieve our goals. Some strategies to use in online learning, just as in classroom activities are to ask questions, attend virtual classes meetings (or watch the recording when available), and set aside time for your studies; remember this is your goal and only you can achieve it. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how strong we can be in the face of trying times and sometimes we need to know we are not alone in that journey. In the Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education program, Dr. Arbelo teaches the capstone course, which is an action research project that each graduate student in education must complete. At the end of that course, one of the discussion board postings asks students to describe their academic persistence and what the learning journey toward earning their graduate degree has meant to them. Here we present two reflections (with permission) on some of the challenges that they have had to overcome and how they define academic persistence. We share this so that you will feel empowered and in control of your degree goals. It is in your hands to continue working toward your degree goals. Don’t lose sight of that. Please read these reflections and be encouraged to press on. We will be sharing a few more over the next weeks.

Carmen Angel MS ESE AU’20

Persistence as a definition is the act of continuing steadfastly or firmly in some state, with purpose and course of action. Academic persistence to me is translating my father’s words and making them a reality. My parents were Cuban immigrants who always worked hard to provide for their family. My mom received a GED in night school shortly after she arrived [to the U.S.] in the 1970s, however she never truly mastered the English language, causing her to work in factories and never truly advance to achieve her dreams of becoming an educator. My dad traveled from Cuba to Elizabeth, New Jersey in the late 60s and later moved to Miami in the late 1970s where he met my mom and took over my grandfather’s plumbing business once they were married. They never had a formal education and made it a priority for my siblings and myself to receive a higher education. As the oldest of three, I was the first to graduate and start college. Unfortunately, as life happens my father became ill and I had to start working [to help my family] in order to be able to afford medications, food, mortgage, etc. My sister and brother were younger, and that caused me to have my education take second seat in pursing my education. My sister graduated from high school and attended MDC, later moved on to UM and finally graduated from NOVA with a law degree. My brother was accepted to Ringling School of the Arts and Design where he graduated with a bachelor’s in educational Illustration and a minor in Art History.

As life tends to happen, my father passed away a little before both their graduations. At this point, going back to school was extremely difficult because I had responsibilities. Taking care of my dad’s health took priority and making sure that both my siblings finished school after his passing was of the utmost importance to my father’s memory. After my dad passed away, my grandmother became bed ridden and that also made my return to school close to impossible. I concentrated in making sure my grandmother and mom were taken care of and made sure my siblings had everything they needed to continue to succeed in school. Many times, I would drive to Sarasota or Ft. Lauderdale to do groceries, clean, do laundry, give emotional support and then would come home to care for my grandmother and mom. During this time, I was married and divorced and later had a beautiful little girl who is now a teenager. Somewhere in there after my divorce, I fell in love with a very special person. He taught me that no matter what happens I always have to live up to my dad’s definition of persistence. I had to finish what I started and pursue a future in education. My dad’s infamous words, “El Que Persevera, Triunfa!” He who perseveres, will triumph. These words have always been engraved in our minds and hearts. My dad always taught us that no matter how hard life can get, as long as you have perseverance you will always have the ability to triumph.

During some of our tightest and roughest moments, we figured out how to make it work. There were many late-night study sessions, nights of no sleep however, I managed to make it work. I graduated from Albizu University in December 2015 with a Bachelor of Psychology.  God willing, I will be finished with my Masters in Exceptional Student Education in April 2020. Although it has taken me sometime to finish, I am very proud of the accomplishments I have attained. I am a caretaker for my mother who suffers from COPD and Emphysema, I am a mother of 5 amazing kids (3 live with me), I am a high school teacher, and a student. Everyone has the ability to finish school, it is all about dedication. No matter how many curve balls life through our way, it’s all about how we continue to play the game.

Manuel Rodriguez MS ESE

Academic persistence refers to the continuous effort and strives in the face of failure, difficulty, or opposition to achieve academic success. It is the willingness to continue struggling or trying even when challenges persist. Persistence is a crucial trait for individuals in any profession. All endeavors of life comprise challenges and difficulties that one cannot evade. Unfortunately, some people give up quickly when faced with challenges. Indeed, this is why the most successful people are highly persistent. I may not say that I am already successful, but my current position as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) in life has been as a result of persistence in fighting for life goals.

My life goal is to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). My first step towards achieving this objective was by attaining a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis from ABA Spain to complete the course work required from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) before getting my certification. I am currently enrolled and completing a Master’s in Exceptional Student Education at Albizu University. Besides learning, I have also worked in several places. I have, for instance, worked as a behavior analyst with children with developmental disorders. Through all of the above, I have faced many difficulties. One of the biggest challenges I have encountered was when I had to work as a caterer for all my expenses while still an undergraduate student. This requirement made my life very challenging, but I did not give up.

In my view, the persistence and passion for helping children with developmental disorders have driven my ambition. I often have a strong feeling that I am obliged to help such people in the best way possible. As a result, I have been persistent and curious in search of knowledge of behavior analysis and intervention strategies. Hopefully, my persistence will see me through my studies to fulfill my ambition.

We want to thank Carmen and Manuel for allowing us to share their stories! We are all proud of you and wish you luck on all your future endeavors. Thank you for choosing to be a part of the Albizu Community!

If you would like to share your story about persistence in achieving your goals, please email:



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