Local mother receives dual degrees
Contact 1: Erin Chesnut
MARTIN, Tenn. – Kimmie Larios, currently of Paris, dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and within a few years was raising four children in inner-city Chicago, Illinois. On Dec. 16, she graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with bachelor’s degrees in both international studies and sociology with a four-week international travel-study under her belt.
“After my divorce in 1999, I realized it was time for a fresh start. I relocated to Tennessee to escape from the increasing crime and gang activity into a more rural environment with the hope that my children would have a better upbringing,” said Larios. “(However,) I was the one who began to cultivate a greater appreciation for life and develop a curiosity about other cultures.”
After a mission trip experience to Mexico, Larios decided to earn her GED and continue her education. She enrolled at UT Martin largely because the university’s location allowed her to attend classes while maintaining two part-time jobs and raising her children. However, she found UT Martin to be the perfect place to find a new path.
“I am so glad I made the decision to attend UT Martin because I feel that I received a high-quality education, and I truly appreciate the opportunity I had to develop working relationships with fellow classmates, professors and faculty,” she said.
In addition to her dual degrees, Larios also completed a four-week language immersion experience to study Spanish in Toledo, Spain, this past summer. She was one of approximately 1,200 American undergraduate students to receive a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs this year. She is also the first UT Martin student to receive this award to study Spanish, specifically.
She spent her time enrolled in courses at La Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha and returned to UT Martin with six travel-study credit hours and six Spanish language credit hours, giving her the academic experience she needed to complete her degree requirements in international studies.
“This experience changed my entire outlook on life and helped (me) see that I had self-imposed limitations in regards to my career. I now realize that I really can go anywhere and do so much more with my degree than I ever thought I could,” she said. “I am currently seeking employment with several non-profit and non-governmental agencies overseas.”
Larios has raised four children as a single mother, with one teenage son still at home, and was her father’s primary caretaker until his death earlier this year. However, she has not let adversity rule her life and is the first member of her family to receive a college degree.
“These obstacles have made my academic journey more challenging at times, but they also inspired me to work harder to reach my goals,” she said. “I consider myself to be an extremely motivated and enthusiastic person, especially when it comes to learning about other societies, religions and cultures around the globe. I am always looking for opportunities where I can get involved in new and exciting experiences, not only to expand my overall knowledge and understanding, but for personal growth as well. …
“I would strongly urge my fellow classmates to take advantage of international travel studies, not only for the enriching experience, but also because it could very well lead you on an otherwise unknown path into your future,” she said.
Larios hopes her journey is an example not only to her own children, but to other students who may follow in her footsteps.
PHOTO ID: Kimmie Larios, of Paris, graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin on Dec. 16.