After seizing opportunity in the US, College of St. Mary grad ready to start ‘new chapter’ | Education

At the College of St. Mary on Sunday morning, Sophia Pico Del Villar will receive her bachelor’s degree in business.

For the 23-year-old, her degree represents more than just the completion of her studies: It’s the culmination of years of pushing forward with an entrepreneurial spirit while working and caring for her two younger siblings.

Born in Mexico City, Pico Del Villar arrived in the United States on July 4, 2015, at the age of 17. As she was about to land at Eppley Airfield, Pico Del Villar looked out the window and saw fireworks exploding in the sky. For Pico Del Villar, those fireworks symbolized the possibilities that awaited her.

Initially in town to visit her aunt, it was her aunt who convinced Pico Del Villar of America’s promise. Unlike in Mexico, Pico Del Villar said, she could pursue a degree while working and caring for her siblings, brother Adrian Pico and sister Paola Pico, who later joined her in America.

Unlike Pico Del Villar, both Adrian and Paola were born in America, giving them US citizenship. The decision to stay in Omaha put Pico Del Villar in violation of her travel visa. Ultimately, she was swayed by the promise of opportunity. She is now in the process of applying for her green card.

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“I just jumped into it,” she said.

Pico Del Villar completed her last year of high school at Bryan High School in 2016, graduating with a 3.5 GPA. She took a couple of classes at Metropolitan Community College while working full time. By that point, Adrian, now 20, had joined Pico Del Villar in America after she convinced their mother that he too would have more opportunities in Omaha. Adrian is currently studying to be a pilot through the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

After two years at Metro, Pico Del Villar, via a family friend, became aware of the Misericordia Scholarship offered by the College of St. Mary. The donor-funded scholarship is provided to undocumented students of diverse backgrounds who are not eligible for federal financial assistance. It covers tuition, room and board.

Under the guidance and mentorship of Katty Petak, senior director of alumnae relations, Pico Del Villar pursued her degree while continuing to care for her siblings. She is also working as a server.

Calling her impending reception of her degree “really emotional and really exciting,” Pico Del Villar said she was also a little sad about leaving the college.

“I love to be here. I love the environment that surrounds the College of St. Mary,” she said. “The people here are so supportive and so helpful.”

After she earns her degree and green card, Pico Del Villar said she plans to pursue a real estate license. She’s already shown to have some chops in that market as she made a profit on a house she rehabbed and flipped in North Omaha. She is currently remodeling another house.

“It’s been 100% a learning process. But I’m just going step by step and just going with the flow of things,” she said.

In addition to earning a real estate license, Pico Del Villar said she wants to help the area Hispanic community. She said she receives questions from members of the Hispanic community about becoming homeowners.

“I feel like it’s a field I can actually help in and just guide them through the process of that,” she said.

Before Pico Del Villar begins her next chapter, she will celebrate the day with her family. Her mother has flown in from Mexico.

“I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life,” Pico Del Villar said.

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