First-generation college student succeeds in medical field

Rubie Villela, a LMC alumnus, is working to become a doctor.


Photo courtesy of Rubie Villela

Rubie Vilella (middle) and her fellow group of classmates learn how to be medical first responders.

Katrina Anabo, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: “Where are they now?” is a continuing series in which Experience reporters connect with former students to find out what they are doing now and how their educational journey at LMC impacted their success.

Former Los Medanos College student Rubie Villela has always strived for success, but life as a first-generation college student can be challenging. With the help of her family and professors, she has found happiness in the medical field and hopes to become a doctor.

The road has not been an easy one, but it provided momentum for her dream. Villela’s parents are originally from Honduras and made the decision to move to the United States for a better future for her and her two sisters. Growing up, Villela’s family didn’t make enough money to provide healthcare for their family so Villela decided to do something about it. Thus began her journey in the medical field.   

Despite the hardships her parents faced, they always supported her education. At a young age, her parents told her she shouldn’t depend on anyone else and to find a career that sparked happiness and would provide her stability. 

Before Villela enrolled at LMC, she applied to several colleges and was accepted to all except the one she wanted to go to the most— UC Davis. 

“I always had good grades in high school,” she said. “I just didn’t really know what went into applying to colleges because I am a first-generation student so I didn’t know that I should’ve done more extracurriculars— I didn’t even know how to apply for scholarships!” 

Her dream school was UC Davis, so Villela decided to save her money and apply to community college and transfer there. She attended LMC from 2013 to 2016 and she discovered a love for biology in high school, choosing it as her major by the time she got to college.

Villela explained she had a hard time asking for help during her first year at LMC. Everything was new to her because she is a first-generation college student. But throughout her scholastic journey at LMC, she met a variety of professors and mentors who helped her achieve her goals. Professor Matt Stricker is one of them. 

Villela met Stricker when she enrolled in his Calculus 3 course. He remembers her as a hard worker who earned the highest grade in his class. 

“She is one of the most dedicated students that I have ever had and she has continued to excel in her studies since leaving LMC,” said Stricker. 

With the support of her LMC professors and mentors, Villela qualified for multiple scholarships and was awarded the Kennedy King scholarship which has helped her finish her education with little debt. 

It’s really important for me to help the marginalized communities that don’t have access to healthcare just like my parents didn’t.

— Rubie Villela

“My teachers connected me to a bunch of resources,” Villela said. “I applied to a bunch of scholarships and I got into Davis and all the other schools I applied to on a full-ride.” 

After leaving LMC, Villela continued at UC Davis and graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in cell biology. At 26, she is now in her first year of medical school at Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and is beginning her pre-clinical years. 

In addition to meeting the challenges of medical school, she also finds joy in volunteering at a local homeless shelter in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Every Sunday, Villela goes to the local parks to provide food, hygiene products and healthcare advice for people in need. 

“It’s really important for me to help the marginalized communities that don’t have access to healthcare just like my parents didn’t,” Villela said. 

Villela’s ultimate goal is to open her own clinic back in her parents’ native country of Honduras. She would love to bring medical resources to help communities without access to healthcare. 

Villela credits LMC for providing her a strong foundation and a support system that gave her the confidence and means to succeed as a first-generation college student. 

“I can’t thank LMC enough,” she said. “I am so glad I went to community college.”