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Alumni Spotlight with Anna Estrada – “You can achieve anything you can dream.”

From being a full-time mom, wife, employee, and going to school, Anna Estrada has had no easy path to obtaining a Master’s degree. Finding yourself in another country as an immigrant with no English background, and having to learn how to write college papers, is by no means easy or practical. However, these obstacles, along with the other setbacks that Estrada faced on her journey, gave her the drive to succeed and the ability to become an alumnus of NC State.

Anna Estrada

Estrada moved to the United States 19 years ago from Mexico. She started her career as a preschool teacher but it was not until she became a parent educator with the Parents as Teachers Program that she fully understood the impact that families and communities have on a child. After eight years as a parent educator, she became the Wayne County Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) agent in 2012. Two years after she began as a parent educator, she found herself starting classes toward her master’s degree, as encouraged by her supervisor, Sandra Head. She took a few classes (which she said was a “nightmare” to receive a hard-earned A), but it wasn’t until 2019 that Estrada enrolled in the Youth, Family, and Community Sciences (YFCS) graduate program at NC State.  The support that she received from her professors, advisor, and the YFCS program director is what kept her going and would not let her give up. As Estrada stated, “It is not easy being a mom, wife, full-time employee, and going back to school, but NC State provided me with online resources that I was able to use on my own time. When I moved to this country, I had many plans, but having a master’s degree was just a dream.

A dream that became a reality and helped me to develop into a better professional.

Estrada is all about creating solutions and NC Cooperative Extension offers Estrada the opportunity to do just that.  In her 17 years with Extension, she has been able to learn, teach, impact, and even make a few mistakes of her own- all while helping others and having fun!  Estrada enjoys her job and intends to create more opportunities to collaborate with others to keep improving her community. As the FCS agent in Wayne County, she uses the knowledge that she has gained to serve her community and to provide programs that can improve the lives of citizens within her county. Estrada describes: “Many times our job is to plan, teach, and evaluate; sometimes our role is to provide resources and technical support, and other times our job is to refer citizens to the right agency.”

On her journey to obtaining a Master’s degree, Estrada made many connections and lifelong friendships. Her advisor, Dr. Sarah Kirby was a supporting and encouraging pillar, especially when Estrada was struggling with a difficult class. Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody provided her with encouragement and confidence in her growth as a student.  Estrada also recognizes Dr. Autumn Guin for teaching with so much love and passion, and for her willingness to take time outside of class to assist her. Kevin Johnson, her Extension Director, encouraged her for eight years to get her Masters and supported her until the very end. Lastly, Estrada recognizes her peer and friend Kelly Tyndall for being a listening ear and positive attitude toward the challenges they faced, while her coworker, Stefani Sykes offered advice and construction during her struggles with writing.

While some are inspired by their parents, teachers, or close friend, Estrada was inspired by her beloved husband. Watching her husband prepare and accomplish his goal in truck driver training school, helped Estrada gain the confidence that she needed to make the big step toward obtaining her Masters. With the goal of obtaining better employment, her husband enrolled in the six-month training, during which he did not have a single day off and was still working full-time. He also struggled to understand and learn new concepts in English, but all of these obstacles led to an even sweeter victory and inspired Estrada to take a leap of faith! She also credits her son Guillermo for helping her achieve her goals, as he helped her learn proper English and would review each one of her papers. Her daughter, Natalia, became her biggest cheerleader during those days when she was ready to give up. “You are almost done!” was a phrase Estrada heard often and it prompted her to finish strong. 

Because of the satisfaction she gets out of her career, and because of her impact on her community, Estrada plans to stick with extension. She says that she has much to learn and wants to be sure that her community is receiving what they need.  She will soon be working on her title promotion. In the upcoming spring, Estrada will be taking classes to complete her certificate in Family Life Education and Coaching. After she completes her certificate, she plans to create new goals, with the confidence of knowing that she can achieve anything she can dream!

Many people struggle to find a career that they enjoy, but extension has given Estrada a job that she looks forward to every day. Estrada not only enjoys her career, but is able to better herself as a person, help families overcome obstacles, and hang her hat at the end of the day knowing she is doing work to improve her community. She credits NC State and the YFCS graduate program for helping her get to this point.