Crystal Gonzalez“Are you sure you have what it takes to study accounting?” That was the question put to Crystal Gonzalez about four years ago, from a professor who noted that her grades were slipping and she wasn’t putting in the kind of effort required to keep up with her school work. “I cried after that, because I was so discouraged,” Crystal notes, “but it also motivated me to do better, quit my outside job, and refocus my commitment on school.”

That conversation was a turning point for Crystal, who just about a month ago achieved something that neither of her parents had had the opportunity to pursue: She earned her BBA in Accounting from University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in Edinburg, Texas. The road to achieving that degree was long – and filled with adversity.

Crystal grew up as the child of migrant workers, who traveled between Texas and Michigan every year to pursue employment. She spent one semester in Texas, then the next semester in Michigan, for her entire elementary and high school years. And the interest in accounting? “It really started in Michigan,” she recalls. “We lived in a very small town, and one of the few electives offered was accounting. I took it and did well, so when I returned to Texas, I wanted to take accounting again, but the only courses offered were for juniors and seniors.”

The teacher allowed Crystal to take the class as a freshman, which helped to inspire Crystal’s love of accounting. “Her passion for the subject really rubbed off on me. She helped give me confidence to keep pursuing my dream.”

After being recognized in high school as one of the top 40 migrant students in Texas, Crystal started her undergraduate studies while working a full-time job. It was tough to juggle both school and work, and that’s when the professor made that scathing remark. The effect was transformative: “I didn’t want to give up on myself, and I knew I could do it,” she says. After cutting back on her work hours and enrolling at UTRGV, Crystal had to re-take four accounting courses, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make.

While at UTRGV, Crystal also got involved in the school’s 60-member IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) student chapter, assuming leadership roles as VP of public relations and, this year, as chapter president. This year, the school took 25 students to the Student Leadership Conference in Houston, where Crystal reaffirmed her interest in management accounting.

Right now, Crystal has two attractive job offers to consider: one at a bank where she has interned over the past year and another in the Texas Comptroller’s Office as a tax auditor. Short-term, her plans are to soon take the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam and, longer term, to become a CPA.

Through her experience, Crystal has learned a lot about perseverance: “Don’t give up, even if you think your GPA is too low or you’re not doing well in your classes,” she says. “I was told that maybe accounting wasn’t for me. I had to retake some courses, but here I am, with two job offers at graduation. Anything is possible. Don’t let anyone stop you.”