Photo by Andrea Vogt
Creating Her Own Path through Business Education
When Thalia DeLeon (’17 Mgmt.) was a child growing up in Othello, Washington, surrounded by agriculture, she watched her entrepreneurial father plant seeds of a different sort as he developed several small businesses and dreamed of creating a community event center. As a single father, he impressed upon DeLeon and her older sister the importance of getting an education, and he hoped one or both of them would follow in his footsteps.
In just a few short years, everything changed.
When DeLeon was 15, her father developed Alzheimer’s disease. He quickly declined, and soon DeLeon and her sister found themselves on much different paths than their father intended. DeLeon’s sister dropped out of WSU after one semester to care for him, and DeLeon became pregnant at 16.
Finding her way
DeLeon faced the struggles of being a teenage mother head on. She stayed in high school and enrolled in the Running Start program. During her junior and senior years, she commuted to Columbia Basin College, determined to get her associate’s degree.
“Every day was a challenge; I struggled through long nights and early mornings caring for my son and focusing on my studies,” she says. “Though my dad was unable to give me insights, I knew I wanted to someday have my own business. That goal kept me going, along with support from my son’s father.”
DeLeon not only earned her high school diploma, she graduated a year early with her associate’s degree and began working full-time as a benefits associate at Columbia Basin Health Association (CBHA). Within a year, she was promoted to a human resources assistant.
But even those accomplishments were not enough for DeLeon.
Committed to her vision of earning a business degree, she transferred to WSU’s Global Campus and completed nearly all of her classes online while becoming a mother for the second time. With two boys to support, her dedication to finishing her bachelor’s degree intensified. She arranged to work 10-hour shifts and requested an intercampus change so she could commute to the WSU Pullman location twice a week to finish out her remaining classes earlier than they would be available online.
In May 2017 DeLeon again graduated a year earlier than expected, the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“Going to WSU was amazing,” the 21-year old says. “I feel fortunate to have experienced some of the great teachers and classes at the Pullman location.”
A bright future ahead
Since graduating, DeLeon is working toward becoming a human resource generalist, a higher-level position at CBHA. She also plans to pursue her online MBA with a concentration in finance that will support her goals of rebuilding her father’s legacy and becoming a business owner. Having bought her first house at 19, DeLeon is already experienced in property investment and aims to own rental properties.
Given her vision and incredible drive, there is no doubt DeLeon is on a path toward a very bright future.