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Finding your passions regardless of age

Morales returned to college after 12 years of being a hair stylist, even starting her own business along the way. Photos courtesy of christygcreative.

Not all college students take the traditional route of starting college after high school, some start but then decide that their aspirations lie in a different place, and for others life and its challenges get in the way. 

UTEP student Mariah Morales did not intend to be a non-traditional college student. With a full ride scholarship to Saint Mary’s University in San Antonio, Morales said she completed her first semester at the university, however a near-death experience in a drunk driving accident caused her to reconsider her path. 

After the accident, Morales moved back to El Paso and decided to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a hair stylist and enrolled in cosmetology school.  

Morales has been a hair stylist for 12 years and started her own business but then there was a new spark in her life which pushed her to restart her college career.  

“The biggest reason why I’m in school right now was because I have a very deep calling and purpose for it now that I did not have when I was 18,” Morales said. “I don’t feel old, so I was like, I’m going to do this thing.”  

Morales is a senior majoring in kinesiology and is graduating in the fall, though she had to overcome obstacles, like simply being herself. 

“One of the big challenges was to show up as myself, because I’m a naturally friendly and outgoing person and I’ve been a business owner for a long time and I felt like the younger generation was very detached,” Morales said. “I’m 31 and I’m used to having to talk to people and having to be outgoing and be myself, and I felt people thought it was weird. The day-to-day at school took me a while to get used to.” 

Morales also found it hard to know who and where to go to if she needed help with financial aid, advising appointments, registering and class work. Financial responsibilities outside of her college life also made it difficult but she said she got through it by seeing these obstacles as blessings and relying on her family and friends.  

“I want to do this, so I don’t see them as obstacles because I asked for this, to me those are blessings,” Morales said. “Now it’s just a to-do list, when I was 18 everything was an obstacle.” 

Between the challenges that came from being an older student and having to readjust to a college environment, Morales found positives as she felt more prepared with skills, she lacked at 18.  

“As you go on through life, it gives you a lot. When financial aid doesn’t work, I keep calling until I get it done and I didn’t have that skill when I was 18,” Morales said. “It takes patience, but it’s patience that I have now and tenacity that I have now. The older you are, the more you’ve been through, so you know how to not take no for an answer.” 

While Morales may not have had the traditional college path, she is taking full advantage of the opportunities she has been given and, just like she followed her first passion of being a hair stylist, is now following her passion to help people through kinesiology.  

“I’m always an encourager of whatever you want to do in this life, you should do it,” Morales said. “Do it for you.” 

Ximena Cordero is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ximena Cordero
Ximena Cordero, Staff Reporter
Ximena Cordero is a freshman at The University of Texas at El Paso. She is a staff reporter at The Prospector. She is majoring in communications and deciding between a minor in creative writing or English literature. After graduating, she would like to pursue a master's degree, work as a journalist or communication specialist, and maybe even write her own books. She wants a career that will allow her to explore the world and see new perspectives and cultures.
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