Aspiring counselor has years of experience to share

Rosie Loya, 64, graduated earlier this month from the little-known educational gem right here in Harlingen: Wayland Baptist University. Courtesy photo

HARLINGEN — She’s just getting started and there’s no end in sight.

When Rosie Loya revealed her plans to finish her bachelor’s of science and human services, some people asked, “Why are you doing that? You’re retired.” Her decision to continue toward her master’s degree perplexed people even more. But she was undeterred.

Apparently, 64 is just a number to Loya, who graduated earlier this month from Wayland Baptist University.

“I don’t feel like I’m ready for retirement, not just yet,” said the mother of three children. She and her husband Richard also have five grandchildren.

“I feel like I can still give back to the community, which is just what I’d like to do, work with younger people and get them on the right path,” she said.

Her hope is to work with young college students seeking direction for their life choices.

Loya’s own journey toward this particular present began many years ago. She’s been working slowly toward it, step by step, class by class as life kept happening.

“I had my children, I’ve had some illnesses in the family, taking care of my parents, my mother-in-law, and illnesses, etcetera,” she said. “So all of those things have gotten in the way.”

The word “never” seems lost to her vocabulary and her drive. Her job at Su Clinica changed from full-time to part-time. She realized she had a couple of days extra. What to do with them?

“I decided, ‘You know what? I need to go back and finish what I started,’” she recalled. “So of course late in life, I’m near retirement age, but I decided, ‘It’s not too late.’”

As she made plans to continue her education she had to find the right school that fit with her other commitments. She found it in a little-known educational gem right here in Harlingen: Wayland Baptist University.

“The only thing that was available to me that I thought would work real well was Wayland because their programs were in the evenings,” she said. “And so I’m able to continue working and go to classes in the evening.”

She pointed out that most people here don’t know Wayland University exists, but it very much does.

“We are part of the San Antonio campus,” she said. “We are known as an external campus here in the Rio Grande Valley. They offer classes here in Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen. It works really well for a lot of people in the Valley that are aware of it. That helped me tremendously.”

While on her life’s journey, she’s gained valuable experience in her work at Su Clinica, which is also a teaching facility where medical students often gain hands-on experience.

“These are young people who have already achieved a degree in either medicine and they’re working towards residency, or dental students or nursing students,” she said. “Quite honestly, I have seen quite a few students that have gone and done one or two degrees before they can actually decide what they want.”

That’s why she went back to school, so she can be a counselor to young people.

“Quite honestly, I see a lack of care for young adults,” she said. “They’re trying to find their way and find out where they will really need to be.”

She understands the decision-making process for life choices very well. She’s seen it in herself, in her children and many others.

“You go and start college and then you think, ‘That’s not what I want to do,’” she said. “You change your mind half way through. And then some people unfortunately just drop off and decide they can’t handle it. But quite honestly it can be done. And I think the older we get, the wiser we get, and I think you can put better use of your knowledge and pursue what you really want to do.”

She thanked her husband Richard and their three children for supporting her. They’re planning a big after-graduation party for her.

twhitehead@valleystar.com